McLouth girls coach eager for season
With 21 underclassmen on a 25-player squad, the McLouth High girls will present a young team when their season starts Thursday.
The youthful team has emerged for two reasons graduation and the highway.
Last year's record: 10-11
Postseason finish: lost in substate first round
Top returners: Courtney Edmonds, sr.; Emma Prochaska, jr.; Alayna Stewart, sr.; Emily Nitsche, sophomore; Emma Prochaska, jr.
Coach: Vicki Bechard
Years at school: 6 (1991-95, 2001-present)
Record at MHS: 54-53
Alma maters, years: McLouth, '73; Kansas State, '77
McLouth lost three seniors from last year, while two more moved Kortney Smith transferred to an Oklahoma school, while Nellie Ryan is now at Lawrence Free State.
Coach Vicki Bechard, though, welcomes back five players who played extensively last year, including last year's Class 2A all-state honorable mention nominee Courtney Edmonds.
After two weeks of practice, Bechard likes what she sees.
"This team seems to have a lot better chemistry than last year's team, so far anyway," Bechard said.
Last season, the Bulldogs faltered down the stretch. At one point, McLouth was 10-5, but the team lost its last six games. Injuries became a nag, as did players. The team didn't get along as the season wound down, Bechard said. And, Edmonds, a senior who has started every year for the Bulldogs, endured an ankle injury one game into the team's late-season swoon.
This season, the team has more speed. The Bulldogs will likely go man-to-man defensively more often, unlike a match-up zone they used last year when the team struggled on defense.
But Bechard said the team might try some different looks.
"I want to have plenty of tricks in my bag," Bechard said.
Edmonds is the team's top returner, while senior guard Alayna Stewart, sophomore forward Emily Nitsche, junior guard Emma Prochaska and sophomore guard Leigh Anna Thompson round out Bechard's projected starters.
McLouth will get the season under way Thursday with the Delaware Valley League preseason tournament. Because Kansas City Christian is an official member of the league this year, the 11-team tournament will include three pigtail play-in games. At 5:30 p.m. Thursday, No. 10 Highland visits No. 7 McLouth. The brackets were determined by last year's league finishes MHS tied for sixth with a 4-5 record. If the Bulldogs win Thursday, they play Horton at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Benedictine in Atchison. The Chargers are the No. 2 seed.
Bechard expects the league to be fairly balanced this season, with Jefferson County North, Horton and Pleasant Ridge likely to challenge. Troy, which made the 2A state tournament last season, returns the most experience. But Bechard doesn't want to sell her own squad short.
"I think we're right in the thick of it," she said. "I'm not counting us out by any means."
Bechard, who graduated from McLouth in 1973 and Kansas State in 1977, is in her second stint with the Bulldogs. After coaching from 1991 to 1995, she focused on athletics director duties until 1998. Last season, she got back into the head coaching role for girls basketball.
And this year, she's eager for the first tip-off.
"I'm really excited," Bechard said. "The practices have gone well. : I'm looking forward to Thursday and Friday to see where we're at."