Lady Indians taking a positive approach
Talk to new Lehighton girls basketball coach Ray Bressi and the one word that jumps out is positive.
Within the sport though, positive can mean different things to different people.
For some, it's posting a certain number of wins. For others, it's reaching the playoffs. For many, it's simply improving from game-to-game, but for Bressi a longtime mentor and currently a disciplinarian at Panther Valley, it's about something else.
"I don't talk to the kids about winning and losing," said Bressi. "I've changed my philosophy and outlook because I deal with kids every day. I worry more about the type of environment we're putting them in. I want to move the program in the direction of everything needs to be positive.
"They're a great group of kids and I don't want any negativity. We won't move the program forward if there is any negativity... A kid is a product of their environment and if we create an environment here where it's all going to be positive, good things will happen."
It may take some time for good things in the way of victories to occur, but if a solid nucleus of freshmen and sophomores stick with the program, wins could become common in the years to come.
The Indians posted a 3-19 mark a year ago, including a 2-10 record in the Mountain Valley Conference. Over 80 percent of the offense from that squad has graduated, including 1,000-point scorer Jordyn Homyak.
That said, Bressi remains optimistic about his current roster, which is mostly comprised of underclassmen.
"There's a lot of teaching that needs to be done," said Bressi. "We've been doing a lot of fundamentals. They just need to learn the game and learn to compete. They're getting better at that. Where that leads us for this year, I don't know."
What the new mentor does know is that his cupboard isn't completely bare. Kasaundra Barclay, a junior, saw some time a year ago while sophomore Taylor Yurasits returns after playing in every game last season.
"Kassaundra is someone we're really counting a lot on," said Bressi. "She does have some experience. She's had injuries in the past and we're just hoping she stays healthy.
"Taylor has really been playing hard for us and doing a good job. We're looking at her as our point guard."
Bressi should also get a lift from Tiffany Thompson, a sophomore transfer from Texas.
"Tiffany has been a real pleasant surprise. We're going to be counting on her. She's strong and could be a force. Schyler Cordova isn't a bad inside player either. She's improved 100 percent since I've been here."
The Indians only have two seniors, Jess Pell and Julianna Evans, on the squad while Emily Shelly joins Barclay as the team's only juniors. Other sophomores include Maria Magyar, Cheyenne Daniels, Atasha Rehrig, Amy Smith and Ismar Villafante.
"I'd like to be an up-and-down team but I don't know if we're at that point yet," said Bressi. "I've always been in a system where we press and trap and change up defenses and do a lot of fullcourt stuff. We do have good athletes and hopefully we can get to that point. That's what we're working towards. Is that going to happen right away? I don't know.
"We have to take things slow and stay positive with the kids."