Can Lady Panthers end D-11 drought?
JOE PLASKO/TIMES NEWS Panther Valley girls basketball team members for the 2010-11 season include, front row from left, Bryanna Kehrli, Jess Jacobs, Shannon Phillips, Krista Paul and Sammi Jones. Second row, Olivia Markovich, Sam Zlock, Mary Jane Thomas and Madison Blasko. Back row, assistant coach Roman Baran, head coach Josh Wank, Breanna Cullen, Trayvonda Rice, Brittany Cunfer and assistant coach William Lynn. Cindy Hassler and Adrienne Blasko are also assistant coaches.
It's been a long time since the Panther Valley girls basketball team qualified for the District 11 playoffs.
Second-year head coach Josh Wank would like to change that immediately.
"Our first goal is to improve on last year," said Wank. "As always, we have also set a goal of making the District 11 playoffs.
"It's been quite a few years (2003) since Panther Valley last qualified. We would love to end that streak this year."
For a Panther team that was just 5-17 overall and 1-11 in the rugged Schuylkill League a year ago, qualifying for Districts won't be easy. Things appear even more difficult when you consider that Panther Valley will have to overcome the loss of leading scorer Dana McFadden and two other starters from last season, and that it will have to do it without a senior on the roster.
But Wank is optimistic that the goals can be achieved.
"The girls we have coming back made huge strides in the offseason," said Wank. "We played in over 30 summer league games, attended camps, and had numerous open gyms. They worked extremely hard. I can see tremendous improvement in their skill level. In addition, we have four freshmen on the varsity roster who will help us out."
Leading the way for the Panthers will be returning starters Olivia Markovich (Jr., 5-5) and Sam Zlock (So., 5-6), who both averaged a little over four points a game last season.
Wank said five girls are in the mix for the other three starting positions and that the lineup could change from game to game depending on matchups. The group consists of Brittany Cunfer (Jr., 5-9), Breanna Cullen (Jr., 5-9), Mary Jane Thomas (Jr., 5-4), Trayvonda Rice (So., 6-3) and Madison Blasko (Fr., 5-7).
Rounding out the varsity roster are Shannon Phillips (Jr., 5-4), Krista Paul (Jr., 5-5), Jessica Jacobs (Fr., 5-4), Bryanna Kehrli (Fr., 5-6) and Samantha Jones (Fr., 5-4).
"All of the girls bring something different to the table," said Wank. "They are pretty versatile and most can play several different positions.
"That will give us nice flexibility out on the court. We can play big or we can go with a smaller, quicker look."
Wank said one of the keys for his team is to be improved offensively.
"Last year, we defended pretty well, but we only averaged 32 points a game," he said. "That has to improve if we're going to reach our goals.
"We need to find an identity on the offensive end of the court."
Wank expects that to happen eventually.
"Our youth is both a gift and a curse," he said. "I love the fact that the girls are enthusiastic and excited about getting this program back to the top.
"But at the same time, our lack of experience is something that might hurt us at least early in the season. But once everyone gets comfortable in their roles I think we will surprise people."