Reed finished 14-2 in league meetings last season, claiming the High Desert League’s No. 2 seed going into the regional tournament. However, having lost Williams before the tournament to a torn ACL, the Raiders snuck past Douglas (Sierra No. 3 seed) with a 47-43 opening round, overtime, win before falling to Bishop Manogue , 48-38, in the semifinals.
“We are totally a different team without her,” Reed coach Sara Schopper-Ramirez said.
Nine months removed from the injury, Williams has been practicing with the team in the preseason and Schopper-Ramirez hopes to have her star playing in games by mid-December.
Despite an earlier-than-anticipated finish to last season, Reed’s coach doesn’t believe the semifinal loss was all negative for her squad.
“We gained a lot of leadership roles stepping out of our comfort zone and it (losing Williams) made us stronger for this year,” Schopper-Ramirez said. “We know we can win without her.”
Outside of Williams (once she returns), the Raiders will lean on senior shooting guard Tyler Sumpter, senior post Tina Vernon and junior post Nakiyah LeSure.
“She (Sumpter) is one of the best shooters in the state,” Schopper-Ramirez said of her four-year letter winner. “She’s picked up a lot of leadership role since we lost Gabby (Williams) on the court and I’m very fortunate to have her.”
Two years removed from a state title, the Raiders’ coach does not see any reason the expectations for her squad should not be as lofty.
“Our goals are always high. We are always one of the top teams and this year is no different,” Schopper-Ramirez said. “Two (North) teams go (to the state tournament) this year and we want to be one of them.”
The Raiders' path to the state tournament will rely greatly on the rehabilitation of Williams’ knee and Reed’s coach likes what she has seen of her future UCONN Husky so far.
Schopper-Ramirez said Williams looks ‘unbelievable’ while recovering from the devastating injury and waiting to give her full clearance is simply a move of precaution.
“She looks like she never lost a knee,” Schopper-Ramirez said. “You can’t even tell. She’s not hesitant at all.”
The Raiders open their season Tuesday at Galena. Tipoff is slated for 5:15 p.m.
The Spanish Springs girls basketball team is also dealing with an adjustment heading into its first season under new coach Arturo Cardenas.
Cardenas was a four-year assistant for the boys program before taking over the girls program upon the retirement of former coach Christine Eckles, the only varsity coach the 13th-year school known.
“It’s coming along good,” Cardenas said of his team’s transition to a new coach and a new system. “They are used to the old system of ‘pass and cut.’ I’m implementing ‘pass and screen’ offense. We are starting to make good screens, make hard cuts, and see the options.”
Spanish Springs finished 12-4 (No. 3 High Desert League seed) in league meetings last season and topped Carson (No. 2 Sierra seed) in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual state champion, Reno, 56-41 in the North semifinals.
Senior point guard Hannah Woytek will run the show in the Cougs’ first season with Cardenas at the helm. Woytek singed a letter of intent to play at Notre Dame de Namur, a NCAA Div. II affiliate in Silicon Valley, next year.
“She works hard, has a positive attitude and is a leader,” Cardenas said Woytek. “She will draw a lot of attention from every team we play. She will be ready for it.”
Woytek was a HDL second-team selection as a freshman, sophomore and junior.
Cardenas said his squad will also lean on seniors Adriana Pennington (power forward), Heather Tauchen (forward) and Mariah Vargas (shooting guard). The three played limited roles as juniors but that will change this season.
In his first season as the coach, Cardenas is not limiting the team’s goals to a certain record or placing for the postseason.
“At the moment, we’re just focused on one game at a time, one practice at a time,” Cardenas said. “For right now, we are just going to keep to the basics and keep it one game at a time.
“The girls are excited, ready to get the season going. I am too.”
The Cougars open their season Tuesday at Douglas. Tip is scheduled for 5:15 p.m.