UNION CITY – With six seniors the Mississinawa Valley girls basketball team already has strong leadership as it prepares for the 2016-17 season.
The Lady Hawks had just one senior last year in Leslie Dirksen, but now they have six with Elizabeth Allen, Kelsie Hunt, Madison Stachler, Mikayla Stump, Kylie Willis and Ana Zappa Rezende, who is an exchange student.
“They’re showing that (leadership) already,” Mississinawa Valley girls basketball coach John Hershey said. “It will be better than last year I’m sure.”
Kelsie Hunt is Mississinawa Valley’s top returning player as she was named special mention all-Cross County Conference last year. As a junior she led Mississinawa Valley with 10.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
Stump also returns to the Blackhawks’ starting lineup after averaging 7.6 points per game last year, which was second best on the team. Stachler was second on the team in rebounding last year with 4.1 boards per game and returns to the starting lineup. Willis also will return to the starting lineup.
Battling for the final starting spot will be sophomores Sidnie Hunt and Oliva Murphy.
“I’ve got six girls for five (starting) spots basically,” Hershey said. “I’m sure it will change on and off throughout the season.”
Key players coming off the bench will be Allen and sophomore Bailey Johnson. Rounding out the roster are Zappa Rezende, sophomore Arianna Caixba, sophomore Dominique Champ, sophomore Macy Stewart, freshman Lindsay Johns and freshman Kya Lavy.
With only having 14 girls in its high school program, Mississinawa Valley will play a limited junior varsity schedule this year. The Hawks plan to play JV games against CCC opponents only.
While they don’t have a lot of players, Hershey said the team’s familiarity with the concepts installed last year will help make for a stronger team this year.
“Last year was the first year so there was a lot of learning curve,” Hershey said. “I think this year is they’ve learned the system. I think offensively we’ll be better, a lot more active.”
Mississinawa Valley didn’t have any problems getting shots last year, Hershey said, but this year they need to start making more of them.
The Hawks will run the same concepts on both offense and defense as last year but will be more aggressive this season.
“We’re going to try to run man-to-man defense,” Hershey said. “I think I’ve got the girls to do it this year.”
Mississinawa will have to overcome a lack of height this season, Hershey said. That will make boxing out extra important.
“The boxing out is going to be a big deal this year,” he said.
If the defense plays to its potential and more shots start falling, Hershey thinks Mississinawa Valley will start to win more games.
“We’ve been in that bottom third (of the CCC) now for a few years, and now I think it’s time to move up,” Hershey said. “They really want that.”
While it will take time to see if the results start to improve, Hershey is confident that the dedication needed to make it happen already is present.
“This is a hard working group of girls,” Hershey said. “I’ve never seen a group that wanted to do it so bad. With that initiative I think they’re going to go pretty good this year.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.