SOUTH WEBSTER — Ryan Dutiel decided to cover the question with a blanket — but honest — answer.
The second-year South Webster girls basketball coach was asked what areas of improvement there are for this season’s Lady Jeeps.
“Right now, everything needs improvement,” said Dutiel, in response. “Our team hasn’t been on the floor together since February due to vacations and other commitments during the past summer.”
The Lady Jeeps hope to improve upon their scoring, shooting, shot-blocking, rebounding, ball-handling and playing defense — and thus aim to improve their Southern Ohio Conference Division II standing.
South Webster went 9-14 and 5-9 in the SOC II — as Dutiel took over the program last season from 20-year Lady Jeep head coach Kristie Johnson.
The Lady Jeeps adjusted to life without Johnson’s daughter, Ellie Jo Johnson, who is starting her sophomore season at Morehead State University.
From last winter, South Webster graduated five players, including Southeast District Division III second-team honoree Maddie Cook — the Lady Jeeps’ leading scorer at 12.4 points per game.
This season, five Lady Jeeps with varsity experience return, including seniors Kenzie Hornikel, Rose Stephens and Baylee Cox, as the 5-6 Hornikel was a Special Mention all-district selection.
Stephens stands at 5-7 and Cox at six-foot tall, as 5-11 forward Faith Maloney and 5-3 guard Bri Claxon — both sophomores and standout volleyball players — are the only other players with any varsity experience.
“It seems like someone different stands out at each practice. Our seniors — Rose, Baylee and Kenzie — have really stepped up and have shown a lot of leadership at our practices,” said Dutiel.
That senior leadership will indeed play a key role, as the majority of the Jeep roster consists of sophomores and four freshmen — while 5-5 Liz Shupert is the only junior.
“Practices have been competitive. Like everybody, we are trying to get as many reps as possible for our starters. I think we are very athletic. We also have quality players coming off the bench,” said Dutiel.
Those would include sophomores Brooklyn Blanton (5-10), Molly Rose (5-7) and Allison Clark (5-8) — and the four freshmen of Joanna Angus (5-3), Kennedy Murphy (5-9), Riley Raynard (5-7) and Kerith Wright (5-6).
While still young, the Lady Jeeps seek to improve in the always-difficult SOC II, as Dutiel believes defending division champion Wheelersburg will be atop the standings — along with Oak Hill.
“I think the SOC II is going to be very challenging. Every team has very skilled players than can get up and down the floor. I look for ‘Burg and Oak Hill to be at or near the top,” said Dutiel.
As for the Lady Jeeps, they are back in the Division IV postseason after a year in Division III — which makes for an easier, and possibly deeper, tournament trail.
However, as Dutiel said, it’s all — from top to bottom and everything in between — about improvement at South Webster.
“We expect improvement upon last year’s record. Our goal every year is to win the SOC II and go as far as we can in the tournament,” he said. “This year, we will be back in the Division IV tournament after moving up last year to Division III. We want to help our seniors finish their careers with a deep tournament run.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved