Head coach Gail Goestenkors understands what it takes to be creative.
With the loss of players to both graduation and injury this season, Goestenkors and her players have readjusted where necessary, and above all else, learned to cope.
“I think this team is going to be in the best shape I’ve ever had [a team be in],” Goestenkors said. “Mostly because they have to be, they have no choice.”
That will be because the Longhorns will take the court this season without sophomore post Cokie Reed in addition to losing four seniors to graduation.
“It’s completely readjusting. We know Cokie, she had a really good freshman year, came on really strong in the end. She was in great shape,” Goestenkors said.
But instead of dwelling in their losses, the team has rallied. Returning starters Kat Nash, Ashley Gayle and Ashleigh Fontenette have taken charge of the young squad.
Readjustment has been crucial for the Longhorns during the off-season, and while it has been done more out of necessity, they have been taking it one day at a time.
Many players will have to take on new roles including Nash who could play all five positions.
“It’ll be a lot more diverse,” Nash said. “Just really expand my game, be able to post up and handle the ball more. It is really making me grow.”
With the loss of Reed, the Longhorns have tweaked their offensive style to one revolving around running and shooting.
“We are going to run a lot more this season, we are planning on it,” Nash said. “Coach G set out a plan for us and we have been going after it ever since — kind of new offenses and new fast-break plays, running the ball more and not setting up as much. Once we are more comfortable it will be a lot easier.”
Coaches are also working with post Ashley Gayle, a defensive specialist, on her offensive game. Last season she averaged only 5.4 points a game.
But along with the few veteran players returning to the team, the Longhorns welcome five freshmen to the team.
Freshman guards Chassidy Fussell and Tiffany Moore could see significant minutes this season.
The freshmen have been embraced by their older teammates, and the bond that has been created amongst them has brought along a sense of trust.
“The freshmen have had to take such greater roles,” said junior Yvonne Anderson. “We are looking at them more than just freshmen — they are basketball players now. They’re definitely good enough.”
Coping with adversity the past few weeks, the effort and creativity both the coaches and players have put forth has raised the team chemistry to new heights.
“The chemistry has been the best it’s ever been. The way they care for each other and the way they fight for each other, I think you will see that reflected on the court,” Goestenkors said. “We are going to be very feisty, and work our tails off. Kind of a real scrappy team, which is the kind of coach I am as well. I definitely think that will reflect their personality.”