CADIZ - The Harrison Central girls enjoyed a banner season a year ago.
Despite some severe graduation losses, Coach Nick Yourkovich has his team primed for more of the same this winter.
Harrison Central carved out a 15-7 mark last season. The Huskies must replace seven players from that squad, including 1,000-point scorer Madison Richards.
Graduation also claimed guard Brooke Shultz, Julie Kelley, Erica Koch, Alisha Thompson, Chelsea Brown and Shelby Rutter. That is a lot of talent to replace, but Yourkovich remains optimistic that no major dropoff will play out this year.
Yourkovich will build from a nucleus of seven players, five of whom are lettermen, vying for the starting positions.
Three senior letter-winners will provide the leadership for the Huskies. They are all 5-foot-3 guards: Jessica Custer, Shannon Compher and Emily Dodds.
"I am impressed with the assertiveness Jess played with in the summer," Yourkovich noted. "She has become more confident as a scorer and leader. She has started on and off for two years and is our most experienced player. We need her to increase her scoring."
Yourkovich is also big on Compher and Dodds.
"Shannon really dedicated herself in the offseason and has developed into one our leaders. She is an excellent defensive guard who we look to also be a threat from the outside," Yourkovich said. "Emily came on at the end of last year and started the last few games. We look to her as a defensive stopper. She is a hard-nosed player who plays with a lot of energy."
Rounding out the senior class is Amber Hatfield. The 5-7 forward will help inside.
"We will rely on Amber to play solid and meaningful minutes. She has a nice mid-range jump shot," Yourkovich noted.
Kara Dunfee headlines a trio of juniors. She is a 5-5 point guard.
"Kara is a very savvy and smart player. She distributes the ball very well but also needs to be a scoring threat. She may be our most consistent outside shooter," Yourkovich said. "Her work ethic has made her one of our leaders."
Jess Ledger is a 5-9 junior guard who is also in the Huskies' rotation.
"Jess really put in a lot of time over the summer to improve her skills," Yourkovich said. "She is a very good outside shooter and we are counting on her to help out defensively and on the board this year."
The final junior is Ronna Orr. The 5-5 forward will split time between varsity and reserves.
The Huskies have a sophomore dandy in Katie Ellzy. The 5-9 forward is a force in the paint at both ends of the floor. She is coming off a banner freshman campaign.
"Katie is a very athletic player who hasn't scratched the surface of her basketball potential," Yourkovich said. "We will need her to take the reins as a scorer and rebounder on the inside. She started 12 games last year. Leadership comes naturally to her."
Harrison Central features one other sophomore on the varsity roster, 5-6 forward Mariah Kuryn. The balance of the roster includes three frosh: 5-9 forward D.J. Keesey, 5-8 forward Shianne Nameth and 5-5 guard Paige Richards.
Four sophomores will be ticketed for jayvee duty: 5-3 guard Amanda Johnson, 5-5 wing Mercedes Logson, 5-7 forward Christal Shoemaker and 5-8 forward Sam Wilson.
"We are a group of girls that are, for the most part, inexperienced on the varsity level. But I think that our chemistry and work ethic make up for that," Yourkovich said. "We are definitely going to experience some growing pains, but I believe this group will be ready to click when it matters the most."
"Early on in the season, depth is going to be a concern. We do not have the luxury of playing 9-10 early on, as we have in the past," he continued. "I have really been impressed with the work ethic of this team, both in the preseason and early stages of practice. This is a group eager to learn, which always makes it enjoyable."
Yourkovich is a proponent of the new expanded 22-game schedule.
"Our girls like to play, so two extra games are nice."
To that effect Harrison Central has added a quality Steubenville team to its already taxing schedule for a pair of contests.
Yourkovich is assisted by a quality and veteran staff. Jay Smith is the varsity assistant while John Visser will handle the reserve team. Sarah Wilden will assist with the reserves.