Lady Pacers open tomorrow

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Will fast players mean a fast start to this year’s Switzerland County Lady Pacer varsity basketball season? Coach Wayne Ellegood – entering his 20th year at the helm of the team – thinks it will.

This year’s Lady Pacer team returns the core of last year’s team, losing only two seniors. That experience and depth will be key as the squad opens a brutal early schedule that has them playing four of their first five games on the road, and the coaching staff thinks the early test will set up the rest of the season.

“We’ve got about six kids back that have played a lot for us,” Coach Ellegood said. “They’re all seniors, and we also have Shana Todd, who’s played mostly jayvee for us, but I think she’ll be okay, too.”

The core of six seniors is led by Courtney Cole, who looks to finally have a healthy season after battling knee injuries. She is joined on the frontline by fellow seniors April Thieman and Morgan Ross – both of whom will start varsity games for the third year when the season tips off.

Megan McCarty is a valuable asset, as the senior provides hustle and enthusiasm and can play different spots on the floor.

The backcourt also returns two veterans, as seniors Amber Smith and Tanya Sefton will provide leadership and stability.

“I think one of our strengths is that little bit of experience we have, plus, we’re pretty quick,” Wayne Ellegood said. “We have a lot of team speed. We’ll press a little bit and run a little bit. With our depth, we feel we can go pretty deep on our bench – and that will be big for us.”

This is year’s team will also feature underclassmen in important and strategic roles.

Sophomore Maggie Armstrong earned a start at guard in Saturday’s jamboree at Jac-Cen-Del, and should see important minutes and key times. Fellow sophomore Carrie Truax will see time inside, and will help offset one of the shortcomings of the squad – according to their coach.

“We’re short,” Wayne Ellegood said bluntly. “But that’s not a weakness because our kids are quick jumpers and good rebounders, so I don’t think it’s an issue. We want to turn that into an advantage for us.”

The junior class will provide some of that height, as Lauren Chase stands 5’11” and Jenna Daugherty is 5’10”. Both should play different roles, both inside and outside for this year’s team.

Rounding out this year’s team is freshman Kristen Perry, who at 5’10” will provide some mismatches for opponent’s guards during the season. She got early experience at Saturday’s jamboree, and will see some big minutes at key times.

With a team featuring seven seniors, the coaching staff is still working to shore up some areas as the season approaches.

“I think every year you have all types of question marks when the season begins,” the coach said. “We’ve got to take care of the ball better. Our passing last year wasn’t where we would have wanted it to be, but we’ve worked hard on that and hopefully that’s going to pay off for us.”

But the time to work on things is drawing short, as the Lady Pacers open their season tomorrow (Friday) night at Madison. Switzerland County then heads to Aurora to play South Dearborn on Saturday night.

“We start with two pretty good opponents,” Coach Ellegood said. “Madison’s got an exceptional player in Sadie Bowling, who’s definitely one of the top 40 players in the state – and maybe higher than that. South Dearborn has everyone back from last year’s team, so they are going to be tough to handle. We’ve got to work hard.”

As for four of the first five games being on the road, Wayne Ellegood says that next year those games will be at home, so everything balances out; and there is an upside to playing road games early.

“I kind of like getting those bus trips out of the way,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve done this for 20 years and I haven’t gotten used to those bus trips yet.”

The Lady Pacers will also participate in a tournament in Franklin, Indiana, between Christmas and New Year’s, playing 4A Anderson Highlands in the opening game; with 1A Clinton Prairie and 4A Franklin in the other game. It’s another example of how the Lady Pacer schedule has drawn tougher opponents in preparation for tournament play.

“It’s good for our kids to travel to different parts of the state and play good teams,” Coach Ellegood said. “It helps at the end of the season.”

But the Lady Pacers won’t travel far to play one of the state’s best, as Southwestern again looks to be the powerhouse of the conference, returning four starters from last year’s team that was highly ranked. Coach Ellegood also thinks Jac-Cen-Del will be strong again, and notes that Madison Shawe looks to be greatly improved, as well.

“Overall I feel pretty good,” Wayne Ellegood said. “We’ve got good kids with good attitudes, and that makes things easier. They’re a lot of fun to work with, and I think we’re going to have a pretty good season.”