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Patriots Girls Feel Ready to Contend in AAA

By JOSH STROPE

WHEELING — The script has flipped for the Wheeling Park girls.

In one year, the Patriots went from being young to experienced.

“Experience was one of the things we lacked the past few years but that has all changed,” Wheeling Park coach Ryan Young said. “We expect to be in every game and expect to win every game.

“Our strengths will be our speed and experience. The kids understand their roles and it has to be all of them together. We don’t have one kid that is going to carry us.

“We are a little undersized, but we will make up for that by pressing teams and getting them running.”

Young, entering his third season, feels for the first time he has a veteran team that is familiar with his system. The Patriots return 11 varsity kids from last season’s 15-8 squad.

Returning for the Patriots will be leading scorer Josie Daugherty. The senior guard averaged 14 points per game and Young is expecting a lot out of her.

“She can score but she also has tremendous leadership,” he said. “From an offensive standpoint, we are going to need her to lead the team in scoring. She needs to make sure she is taking smart shots and also keeping the kids in line.”

In the middle will be 5-foot-10 senior Emma Kendle.

“Emma is the biggest kid and may be the toughest kid,” Young said. “She brings our biggest dimension.”

The other seniors are forwards Kirstin Hartman (5-7) and Megan Stanford (5-7). The two played valuable minutes last season and are expected to be bigger contributors this season.

“Last year they knew their role, but this year they need to take the next step,” Young said.

How far the Patriots could advance this season may rely on a solid junior class.

Kylie McKennen will be the point guard and Young has high praise for his returning assists leader.

“I don’t think she realizes just how good she can be,” he said. “A lot of colleges are starting to ask about her. She knows how to run an up-tempo offense and can be a good defender. She needs to stay out of foul trouble.

“She is important to us this year. She will be the tempo-setter on offense and defense. She just has to learn to play under control and play good mental basketball.”

A pair of soccer standouts will look to continue their success from the pitch and bring it to the hardwood.

Lauren Schultz is a 5-10 guard that is one the Patriots’ best defenders.

“She allows us to play a lot of different defenses,” Young said.

Joining her in the backcourt is Morgan Glass.

“Very athletic in the same mold as Lauren Schultz,” Young said. “She is very, very quick. We want to be a pressing team and those two will allow us to do that.”

Laurel Robb is an undersized big at 5-7, but plays hard and does a lot of the dirty work cleaning up the glass.

Three kids at the end of the bench, but will see bigger roles as the season goes on, are Brionna Gray, Abby Jones, and Emily Pavlik.

“Brionna, her biggest strength will be the 3-point shot, Abby Jones will back up Kylie at the point and see good minutes and Emily can handle the ball,” Young said. “This is a great group of kids that are going to continue to play better as the season goes on.”

With inexperience no longer a factor, naturally the expectations have changed. Young said the team has goals they talk about every day.

“No. 1 is Charleston,” he said. “These seniors have put in a lot of time and work and they need to be rewarded. We want to make it to the state tournament.

“Another goal is to compete for an OVAC championship. In the past, we have set these goals and maybe they weren’t really achievable. But I expect this team to take that next step forward and these are reasonable goals.

“We play a AAA schedule, playing Parkersburg South, Morgantown, John Marshall all twice. I believe those three will be really good. Those are the competitive games we have circled on our calendar.

“The parity of our team is going to be a big plus. We are going to have games where kids are going to need to step up and I have complete faith that we can bring any kid off the bench and give us quality minutes. It is a good problem to have, but we want to make sure everyone gets in and contributes.”

Young is assisted by Shane Glass, Katelynn Hackathorn, Lucy DeFruscio and Jason Chambers.

Dec. 2: at Jefferson 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 3: at Spring Mills 1:30 p.m.

Dec. 6: at Morgantown 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 10: Parkersburg South 2:30 p.m.

Dec. 13: Brooke 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 15: University 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 27: Cabell Midland (at Ripley) 1:30 p.m.

Dec. 28: at Ripley Tournament TBA

Jan. 3: at Brooke 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 5: Morgantown 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 11: John Marshall 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 14: Ripley 2:30 p.m.

Jan. 20: at Parkersburg 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 24: at University 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 27: Spring Mills 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 28: Trinity Senior 2:30 p.m.

Feb. 1: at Zanesville 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 4: Buckhannon-Upshur 2 p.m.

Feb. 6: OVAC TBA

Feb. 8: at George Washington 2:40 p.m.

Feb. 15: at John Marshall 7:30 p.m.

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