Defending champs are young, but talented

By on December 11, 2013

Ephrata turned in a magical season a year ago, culminating with a thrilling victory over Cocalico in a one-game playoff to clinch the Section Two title.

The Lady Mounts went on to earn both L-L League and District playoff appearances en route to an 18-7 year.

Flash forward to the present, some key pieces still do remain from that special club, but the Lady Mounts must find a way to replace six seniors, including three key starters in Sarah Haddon (15.7 points per game), who is now playing at F&M, Hannah Reimel and Sarah Hoffer.

Ephrata will lean heavily on 5-3 junior guard Kelly Liebl, who returns for her third season as a starter to lead and hopefully guide this rather young squad to where it wants to go.

The Lady Mounts split their first two games of the season, and showed signs some good things. Freshman guard Caroline Stauffer provided a big lift, scoring 22 points in her first varsity game. Several other youngsters showed promise as well.

How fast those players mature should ultimately determine if the Lady Mounts can be in the mix in 2013-14.

Ephrata Review Sports Editor Todd Ruth caught up with Coach Mike Garman Tuesday to discuss the season that just got underway.

The following is a transcript of that conversation:

Todd Ruth: You guys are 1-1 out of the gates. So far, after two games, what are your impressions of your team?

Mike Garman: Going into the season you have a lot of unknowns when you are starting a freshman, a sophomore that never played before, and a senior that never had much varsity experience. We do have two starters coming back in Kelly Liebl and Irene (Lascarides), but there are a lot of questions. This weekend we played Manheim Central on Friday night and we won, but didn’t play very well. I was very disappointed in the way we played defense. I was thinking if we play that way against Fleetwood, which returns four starters from last year, it was going to be ugly. But to their credit, they really stepped it up, came out and played a great game. We were in the game until the very end and lost by four, but they went to the foul line 20 times in the first half and we went three…when you are on the road playing in Berks County it’s a different ballgame, but that showed me some heart and character and I think that was really important. The thing is, we just have to learn how to play good team defense. Right now, we are OK, but we have to get a whole lot better.

TR: Last year in winning that section championship, how will that help these remaining players heading into this year?

MG: We’ve had some success in terms of winning the section, and I think when you accomplish that, the girls who come back have experienced that, and certainly can draw from that in terms of realizing what it took last year for us to do that. And you can draw from it in terms of doing the little things, whether it’s playing defense, rebounding, hopefully not turning the ball over, making free throws…all of the things we did last year and did well and found a way to have some success. The thing about playing defense, if you can do that night in and night out, and rebound, you are going to be in a lot of games. But if you foul and put people on the free throw line and don’t play good, sound defense, then it is going to be tough because it’s tough to try to out-score people every night. There are a lot of things I like about this team. It’s just a matter of them gaining the experience in terms of playing and playing together and learning how to play good team defense. That’s just so obvious to me that we really need to get better.

TR: You lost six seniors and three very key and talented starters. How do you make up for what they did for your team both on and off the floor?

MG: Last year I had four girls I could put on the floor that could play really tough man-to-man defense in terms of matching up with people. And now, that’s going to be a challenge to do but that has to be our goal. We got to find the way to get back to that. Right now, Kelly Liebl is a very good defensive player, and I think I have some girls who are younger who are pretty good defensively. Rebekah Pauley, who is a sophomore, Kay Liebl is back out and she’s a sophomore…these are all girls who in time I think are going to be very good defensive players. Then we have Kenzie Horst who is a sophomore. She’s very athletic but doesn’t have the experience. People don’t realize that to play good defense, you really need to develop a feel for it. It just takes time, so the team concept, defensively, is huge. I really believe we’ll get there. I’m just not sure when, but I really like the kids that I have.

They’ve got great attitudes and tremendous work-ethics, and they want to do well. That’s very obvious. They showed me that a lot Saturday night against Fleetwood. And with a young team, you always want consistency, but that doesn’t always happen. I think most nights we are going to be able to compete. And if we learn quickly and do some of the things we have to do I don’t think there is anyone in our section that we can’t play with. Now, does that mean we are going to go out and win every game? Of course not. But I think we can be pretty competitive.

TR: This will be Kelly Liebl’s third year as a starter. How vital, especially with a young team, is her experience and leadership?

MG: It’s huge. Kelly now realizes that her role has changed. Last year as a sophomore, when (point guard Joelisa Harvest) went down for the season, a lot was put onto Kelly’s shoulders. I think it was good for her because she just matured a lot last year. She had a great core to work with, but now, there is a whole different role in terms of leadership. Now, she’s the one that’s going to make us go, whether it’s playing defense, pushing the ball up the floor, which we are trying to do, whether it’s scoring or creating offense for other people…those are the things she’s got to be able to do now. She did it last year, but she had a lot more help in terms of playing with girls who were more experienced. Her role is huge, and I really feel as Kelly goes, we are going to go.

TR: Joining her in the backcourt, it looks like you have potentially a lot of real nice guards there. Would you agree?

MG: We’ve got some really nice guards and they are all young. As I mentioned, Rebekah Pauley, Kay Liebl and certainly you got Kelly who is a junior and Caroline Stauffer who is a freshman. That is a good nucleus. I don’t think I’ve ever had that before to be honest with you. Rebekah is one of those girls who will never wow you, but she’ll never hurt you either. She’s just smart. And she takes everything to heart, and is a very good defensive player. I do like that group and the nice thing is they are all back next year. This is going to be a year where they can transition and learn and get ready for a season down the road. But they want to compete this year, they really do. They are determined to do that so we’ll see.

TR: Caroline scored 22 points in her first varsity game Friday night. For her to do that, is that something you felt she was capable of doing right away?

MG: I didn’t know. I can tell you she is certainly a very good player from an offensive standpoint. She knows the game and is very competitive. There are some things that she still needs to do better. Being a young player she does turn the ball over but I think that will get better, and defensively she must improve and that will get better too. You know, there are certain kids that have an air about them, and when they step on the court, whether it’s on the field hockey field or whatever it is, they just bring something that you just can’t really always coach. And she has that. She’s very competitive. She’s a good one.

TR: The front court is where I see you really need to have some kids step up. Would you agree?

MG: We do. (Senior) Kirsten Ueberroth and Kenzie Horst have been in there and have struggled offensively but they’ll get better. And Hannah Raezer (who missed last season with a knee injury) is a girl who is slowly working her way back into things. She had that injury last year and is only going to get better. They will get better with time, but it’s just going to take awhile. But it’s a good nucleus, and the good thing is we really only have two seniors who will play in Kirsten and Irene (Lascarides). Irene is a role player and she’ll hustle for the ball and rebound for you. (Senior) Kaylyn Rissler will play some as well.

I think it’s going to be a year where there are going to be some highs and there are going to be some lows. We are going to have some games where we look pretty good and some games where we look not so good.

TR: What do you view as your team strengths?

MG: I think our guards and our quickness are definitely our strengths. I don’t think there is any question about that. Against certain teams it’s going to be tough to match up. We’ve been trying really hard on working on pushing the ball up the court. We are getting better but we are not where I want us to be. I think that will be a strength for us and you know we actually rebounded the ball very well this weekend. I was surprised by that because I didn’t think we would do that as well as we did but Kenzie is a good rebounder and Irene is. It’s a work in progress. I’m hoping by January we are in a good groove.

TR: I was going to ask you about your team goals. What do you think this team can do in the big picture?

MG: Well, they’d love to repeat as a section champion. Now we know that is certainly going to be a challenge. Cocalico, in my opinion, is by far the best team in our section. They’ve got everything in place. They have all of the weapons offensively and they do a good job defensively. The one thing Cocalico doesn’t have is they are not overly quick. They are quick but are not overly quick and depending who they play that could be a potential problem. But we would love to repeat as a section champion. We were picked to finish fifth in our section, and I understand that. We lost six seniors and we lost a girl who was all-league and two girls who were Section Two all-stars…that’s a big chunk of change to lose. We lost a lot. Last year Sarah Haddon averaged over 15 points a game, and Sarah Hoffer and Hannah Reimel averaged about seven points a game and that was huge. But really anything above fifth place would be good because that’s where we are picked.

TR: Are there any other teams that could challenge in the section?

MG: I think Cocalico should win the section. I just don’t see anyone beating them. The thing is, when you have two girls like (Marissa) Gingrich and (Emily) White who can both score, that puts a lot of pressure on a defense. And I’ll tell you what, it is tough to match up with. I do think Lebanon is close behind. They return five starters and are going to be pretty tough. And they are the kind of team that shoots a lot of threes, and if they are knocking them down, it could be a long night. They are going to be right there but I don’t think they are as good as Cocalico. And E-town is off to a good start. They’ll be decent, Solanco will be decent and CV will be much better. Our section is going to be extremely competitive. There is no team in our section that will be a pushover. Whatever you get you are going to have to work your tail off for it. It’s going to be fiercely competitive.

About ephratareview

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *