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Cougar girls look to keep moving forward
by Tribune Staff
Nov 26, 2012 | 4539 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs junior point guard Hannah Woytek handles the defensive pressure of a Reno player during a scrimmage last Saturday.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs junior point guard Hannah Woytek handles the defensive pressure of a Reno player during a scrimmage last Saturday.
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Tribune photo by John Byrne - SSHS senior guard Riley Hollday drives into the lane with a Reno defender in pursuit during action at last Saturday's Spanish Springs scrimmage jamboree.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - SSHS senior guard Riley Hollday drives into the lane with a Reno defender in pursuit during action at last Saturday's Spanish Springs scrimmage jamboree.
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A year ago, the Spanish Springs girls basketball team posted a 20-8 record and 12-4 mark in conference clashes. Spanish Springs swept all six Sierra League schools in crossover league games and their only league losses came to Reed and Reno, twice.

Reed and Reno went on to play in the state final. Spanish Springs, in its 12-year school history, has never beaten either of the traditional North and state powers. It won't be an easy task this year either as both 'R' schools are expected to be among the best in the Silver State.

"It's a tough situation, but really I just think that were going to be focused on Spanish Springs and trying to do some things better than we have before," veteran Cougars coach Christine Eckles said. " There are things I we feel like we can improve on and build off of from last year. It's clear we have the two best teams over the last 10 years both in our league. But we must take care of what we do and go from there evey day."

Still, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic in the Cougars' camp. The SSHS hoopsters did not lose a player to last summer's graduation and they return nine players from last winter's successful squad. Two players from last season's roster chose not to try out and another moved out of state.

A pair of fourth-year varsity players return to lead the Cougars in power forward Lyndsey Anderson and shooting guard Riley Holladay. The senior duo has earned first-team and second-team all-High Desert League honors respectively each of the last two years. Also returning is junior point guard Hannah Woytek, another second team HDL all-star last winter. Woytek transferred to Spanish Springs for her sophomore season after playing at North Valleys as a freshman.

Eckles said that trio must provide leadership on and off the floor.

"For sure, those are the kids that must get it done for us," Eckles said. "Riley and Lyndsey have been in our program for four years and Hannah is an outstanding point guard. They're definitely going to lead us on both ends of the floor and yet I also think we have good role players to surround them with that can help us offensively and defensively."

The other returners for Spanish Springs are seniors Laneesha Terrance, Kristina Stocking, KK Lang and Stephanie Miller as well as juniors Myrissa Prince and Mariah Vargas.

Juniors Heather Tauchen, Adriana Pennington, Taylor Tremayne and sophomore Bayley Wilson are the newcomers to the roster.

So, with the abundance of returnees, and a few new faces to throw in the mix, what will be team strengths for Spanish Springs?

"I think we have a good inside-out combination," said Eckles, who has been the head coach at Spanish Springs since the Sparks school first opened its doors in the fall of 2001. " We should be able to handle pressure fairly well with Hannah and Riley in the backcourt. We shoot the ball a little better than we did last year and Laneesha has gotten a lot better to provide us with another inside post presence,"

A year ago, Spanish Springs could struggle offensively against teams with a size advantage. The SSHS club hopes to be more productive in the post this season which could alleviate some of those woes, but Eckles knows there are still areas of concern.

"I think we need to be more consistent offensively night in and night out, " she said, "A downfall for us last year was we'd have four- and five-minute spans where we didn't score and we've got to try to eliminate those.

"We're going to work on it by focusing in practice that every possession matters and we must take good care of the basketball, don't let opportunities pass. We're shooting the ball more in practice. Hopefully, we hit more open looks than we did last year and I think our roles will be defined better, which will allow the kids to be more successful."

The Cougars, who have reached the postseason four out of the last five years, have a couple weeks of practice under their belts as they prepare for the new season. The local school got in some scrimmage work during a preseason jamboree Saturday.

Eckles stressed that her team must still make huge strides if it wants to achieve its goals, but she likes what she's seen in the early going.

"I feel good about the first two weeks," she said. "The kids are working hard and we're ahead of where we were last year at this time. It's a close-knit team that's willing to work hard for each other. The girls are very team oriented."

Spanish Springs opens its winter campaign in a Division I Northern Region crossover league game Tuesday at home against Douglas. The Cougars then go to suburban Sacramento Nov. 30 and Dec 1 for a pair of non-conference contests before returning to the Truckee Meadows for another league home game, Dec. 4 against HDL foe North Valleys. In all, the Cougars will play six leagues before they return from Christmas break in early January.

"I don't really care for crossover games counting," Eckles said. "To expect that teams can have everything from their system installed, in just 10 days, is unrealistic. Now granted, the team you're playing against is in the same boat, but as coaches, early on you'd just like to play games and not have them matter in league play.

"I'd prefer the old system where we didn't play league games until January. That allowed coaches more time to teach and kids to learn. We could get more kids more playing time. That's a better system. Look around at the college game and the high school game in other areas. Personally, this is just not a good idea."
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