Bulldogs welcome first-year coach
Todd Cossman identified the two main areas he wanted the McLouth High girls basketball team to improve this season: Increasing its field goal percentage and committing fewer turnovers.
"We have to take smarter and better shots and that will correlate to a higher field goal percentage," Cossman said.'
McLouth finished last season 8-12, but will return six players who received experience at the varsity level. Last season, the Bulldogs had an inexperienced team.
"We didn't score enough to win games," said Cossman, who's in his first year as the Bulldogs coach. "We'd lose games, 30-26. You're not going to win many games scoring 26 points."
McLouth went through growing pains with such a young team last season.
"We weren't always competitive last year in all our games," Cossman said. "We still had eight wins, but I like to be competitive in every game we play. If we do that and keep improving, we're going to be pretty successful this year."
The Bulldogs have their share of weapons on offense. Seniors Abby Annis and Sam Farris are the most experienced of the six returning players this season.
Likely candidates for leading scorers will be Annis and sophomores Kylie Shufflebarger and Missy Rome.
Rome handles the point guard, while Annis plays the off guard. Shufflebarger is arguably the team's most dangerous scorer. The post player has the ability to score inside or pull up for a shot from the perimeter.
Shufflebarger and Rome received extensive varsity experience as freshmen last season.
Cossman may be in his first year as the Bulldogs coach, but he's already familiar with the program. He served as an assistant coach for the girls team last season. Cossman is in his second year overall at McLouth.
"I know everyone on the team and have a good understanding of what everyone's ability is," Cossman said. "I think I have a pretty good rapport with my players."
Cossman has also brought change on the defensive end of the floor for McLouth. Expect to see a new defensive scheme from MHS.
Last year, the Bulldogs primarily set up in a zone defense.
"We're really trying to switch over to man-to-man," Cossman said. "I've been really pushing that. My theory is that I preach defense. Defense is where the coach can have the biggest impact. The offense will come as it is."
With a more experienced unit this season, Cossman can rely on his players to play help defense. Forcing the opposition to the sideline for turnovers is commonplace.
"When you play man-to-man, you have one person guarding the ball," Cossman said. "The reason it's called help defense is that you're helping the other person guard the ball. It's going to take them a while to get used to that. When they do, it's going to make them a dangerous team to play."
McLouth will begin its season Thursday with a play-in game for the opportunity to play in the Dec. 4 Delaware Valley League Tournament.
Since the Bulldogs didn't finish in the Top 5 of their league last season, they didn't receive an automatic spot in the tournament. The bottom six teams, including McLouth, will play one game a piece to see which three teams will round out the DVL tournament field.