Each of the last three seasons, the Pleasant Valley girls' basketball program has improved from one year to the next.
After going just 6-16 in 2009-10, the Lady Bears made an enormous jump to 18-7 the following year and captured their first Mountain Valley Conference crown in six years. Last season a 'young' Bears team not only duplicated its 18 wins and defended its MVC title, but also qualified for PIAA play for the first time in nearly ten years.
Although Pleasant Valley lost its two top scorers in Kelecia Harris and Amber Chieffo to graduation, fourth-year head coach Nadia Gauronsky refuses to lower her expectations for this year's team.
"Every year a team loses players and everyone asks the question, 'How do you make up for those terrific seniors?'" said Gauronsky. "You don't. You need to focus on the players you have now and those players need to step up and play a little better than they did last year.
"Our girls need to continue to grow and develop and become leaders on the floor. Last season our guards really improved and we are hoping that they will continue to get better and better and make things happen for us."
The three guards Gauronsky is referring to are juniors Keri Dekmar (5-9) and Jordan Meckes (5-5), along with senior Arden Cisluycis (5-2). Dekmar and Cisluycis started the majority of the team's games last year, while Meckes saw a lot of minutes off the bench. All three can play either the point or shooting guard positions.
Dekmar and Meckes each played in 27 games last year and averaged 5.4 points-per-game. Cisluycis played in all 28 games and was third on the team with 6.5 points-per-game. Other than Chieffo (43) and reserve Aubrey Aldinger (one), they were the only other players on the team to hit a three-pointer. Cisluycis knocked down 28, while Meckes and Dekmar had 11 and eight respectively.
"Keri has shown a lot of poise and has really developed into a basketball player," Gauronsky said about her tall point guard. "She has become a leader on the floor and someone that the girls look towards to help them in every situation.
"She has a ton of people to help her. Mackenzie Dorney has shown a mental toughness and has really been a work horse for us. Arden is our lone senior and has the ability to make good decisions. These three all started for us last season. We are hoping they will carry the bulk of the weight."
Dorney, a 5-6 junior forward, and Courtney Miller (5-7, Jr., C) figure to round out the starting lineup in the early going for Pleasant Valley. Dorney averaged 3.5 points last season, while Miller added 1.9.
Julia Craig (5-5, Jr, G), Dzana Krcic (5-5, Jr., F), and Jenesa Fields (5-10, So., C) also figure to see minutes off the bench. Craig saw the most minutes of the three in 2011-12. In fact, she played in every game and chipped in 2.7 points-per-game.
Although Pleasant Valley has just one senior on its team with the rest being underclassmen, the group was even younger last year when it made it all the way to the state playoffs. Gauronsky is hoping that experience helped her girls grow over the off-season.
"Hopefully it has taught us how to play in big game situations," said Gauronsky. "I think when you are young, you make mental mistakes. I am hoping that we have matured as a team and won't make those same mistakes again. The girls are working hard and have had a lot of experience in the off-season working on skills and becoming more aggressive players.
"We are hoping to improve each game, and hopefully make the league and district playoffs. We have been working hard everyday to achieve our team goals."