VERSAILLES – This year’s Versailles girls basketball team will look a lot different than the ones that made the Ohio High School Athletic Association state tournament the past two years.
Versailles enters the 2015-16 season as the defending Division III state champion but lost a lot of talent for a second consecutive year. The Tigers lost four players, all of whom started for the 2015 state championship squad, to graduation.
“About 85 percent of our scoring needs to be filled,” Versailles coach Jacki Stonebraker said. “That’s kind of what I’m most worried about going into this season is the offensive output that we’re going to have. But I think defensively we can contain a lot more because we’re a lot quicker out front this year. We can press up and down the court. We can change up defenses a lot quicker. We have a lot of the same type of girls so we’re not going to skip a beat when we do sub.”
Helping to make the Tigers a quick, adaptable team will be a large number of guards who are ready to contribute at the varsity level.
Versailles’ lone returning starter is sophomore Kami McEldowney, who along with junior Camille Watren forms a pesky pair of guards.
“We call them little gnats out there,” Stonebraker said. “They’re going at the guards very quickly. They’re bothersome. They’re annoying when they’re playing defense; they’re annoying to the offensive players. So that’s going to be our main focus is getting up into the grill of the offense. We’re not as big inside so we can’t let the guards on the outside see the inside post so we’re going to be really up in their face playing a lot of high-pressure defense out on the guards instead of laying back and using our length because we don’t have much length this year.”
Along with McEldowney and Watren, Versailles has a number of guards including junior Brynna Blakeley, junior Emily Langenkamp, senior Kristin Langston, junior Kami Ording, sophomore Ellen Peters and junior Clair Schmitmeyer who will help the Tigers play a more up-tempo style than they’ve employed in years past.
“We are going to try,” Stonebraker said. “Now what’s not my style because my style has always been punch it in to the post, but when you don’t have that you have to rely on some other things that maybe you’ve done a little bit of in the past. I’m going to change with my players a little bit here and hopefully run a little bit more up tempo and get it going.”
Inside Versailles has post players including senior Emily Marshal, senior Lauren Monnin, sophomore Danielle Winner and senior Haley Winner. The Tigers also have senior Logan Shimp, who is kind of a tweener, Stonebraker said.
This year’s squad does have several players who gained valuable varsity experience last year, Stonebraker said, but not many real tall girls like the Tigers had in the past.
“I think it’s a different type of team,” said Stonebraker, whose only player 6 feet or taller this year is 6-foot 2-inch Danielle Winner. “The way we play this year will be a lot different than the way we played the last two years just because we’re so much smaller. So I’m not going to say reload because it’s just going to be totally different.”
In order to play more quickly, Versailles will look to play a lot of girls to keep players fresh. The Tigers also will experiment with their lineup as they try to figure out what combinations work.
“It might not be pretty at times those first 22 games, but we’re going to try to figure out the rotation that we need and try to get some consistency out of it,” Stonebraker said.
Versailles hasn’t had much time in the preseason to prepare for the upcoming season and sort out its lineup because of the success of its volleyball team, which made the regional tournament for a third consecutive year. But that’s not a big issue, Stonebraker said, as the Tigers have grown accustomed to it.
“They came back last Wednesday,” she said. “We’ve had four practices together, and I think we’re getting bored. I think we need to play somebody and see what we’ve got. You could see that a little bit in practice yesterday as they were getting bored of practicing against each other.”
As in the past, Versailles will look to weather a tough regular season schedule to get ready for the postseason as the Tigers look to put together another long tournament run.
“If they can come together and play like I know they can play then hopefully we can do some damage in the tournament,” Stonebraker said. “But there’s got to be a lot of pieces put together this year and acceptance of roles.”