Last season, everyone on the Pleasant Valley girls' basketball team from its coach to its players needed a year to gain some experience and grow with one another.
Now, with Nadia Gauronsky in her second year as head coach and the Lady Bears possessing four seniors in their starting rotation, the program is hoping to take the next step in its evolution.
Pleasant Valley finished 6-16 overall last year, but missed the District 11 playoffs by two games due to its 4-8 conference record. The Bears lost one game to Stroudsburg by three points and another to Pocono Mountain West by seven. With her top five scorers returning with another year of experience under their belts, Gauronsky is hoping that could be enough to make up 10 points.
"We are strong in senior leadership this year," said Gauronsky. "Last year we were young and inexperienced. This year, we have the experience and have worked extremely hard during open gyms and summer leagues. We have worked on our skills and developed our knowledge of the game.
"The kids were learning a new style of basketball last year. It was a hard transition, but it was successful. Now that we have a new attitude, I would like to see us make the MVC and district playoffs. I think we have the ability to do so."
Kasey Meckes, the Bears' leading scorer last year at 12.55 points-per-game (7th in TN area) is the unquestioned leader of the group. She will handle the point guard duties.
Megan Hardy, one of the other three seniors in the starting lineup, developed into a solid player late last year. She, along with junior reserve Amber Chieffo, has come a long way according to Gauronsky.
"Kasey has been our leader," said Gauronsky. "She is not only a great athlete, but an extremely hard worker. She is the spark plug and the court general for our team. Her court presence alone is going to help us against teams. Defenses may focus on her, but now we have other weapons that can take the pressure and deliver the points we need.
"Late last year we were pleased to see the development of both Meghan and Amber. We are hoping that this continues. They have made tremendous strides as varsity players."
Hardy was second on the team in scoring at 8.9 ppg. She also finished fourth in the TN area in free-throw shooting with a 71.4 percentage. Chieffo led the team in three-pointers with 21 (tied for ninth in TN area).
Rounding out the starting lineup will be seniors Christina McGill and Dalian Salmon, along with junior Kelecia Harris. McGill will run along side Meckes in the backcourt, while Salmon and Harris will join Hardy up front. Harris averaged just over five points-per-game in 22 games last year. Salmon averaged just under four.
Gauronsky will be looking to go 10 or 11 deep this year. Joining Chieffo off the bench will be Rachel Sisco (Jr., F), Nicole Kregeloh (Jr., G), Abby Wiesmeth (So., G/F) and Arden Cisylusis (So., G). All four with the exception of Wiesmeth played in at least 10 games last year.
"Christina, Nicole and Rachel have really worked on their skills and have really stepped up as leaders for this team," Gauronsky said. "We should be able to count on them for positive contributions. Also, during the last two scrimmages Kelecia Harris has really proven herself as a strong presence in the post along with Dalian Salmon."
Pleasant Valley has taken to a 'One Team, One Heart' mentality this year. Gauronsky says her Bears are at their strongest when every member contributes to achieving their goals.
"We are still learning and developing as players," said Gauronsky. "As any coach will tell you, it takes time to make a program successful and that is what the coaching staff and the girls have devoted time.
"The coaches and the players have spent countless hours in the gym working on different elements of the game. We have become gym rats. Hopefully with that time and effort we can achieve our goals of making the MVC and district playoffs. This year will be a success if we can do that."