BY ANDY ROWER | MIRROR SPORTS — Maumee’s 2018-19 girls basketball team is looking forward to a successful season with four players returning from last year’s 11-13 (6-8 in Northern Lakes League play) season.
Although the Panthers graduated 23.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 6.2 steals, 5.7 assists per game and a total of 86 treys in all-district guards Lauren Johnson and Alissa Schneider, first-year varsity coach Jyl McCarthy said she was excited to start rebuilding the program.
Maumee’s junior varsity coach last year, McCarthy began instructing many of the program’s players when they were as far back as third-graders.
“It’s a great thing to watch their skillsets develop, see how far they’ve come in their games and see what kind of high school players they are,” she said. “Lauren and Alissa were a huge part of last year’s varsity team, but I will say that the team chemistry with the kids I have this year is phenomenal.
“I think we’re going to see a more balanced team style approach and the scoring is going to be a little more spread out.”
Two big reasons for this year’s chemistry are a pair of returning forward starters in senior Brianna Zattau and junior Natalie Winkle.
Zattau averaged 5.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game last year and Winkle averaged 2.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 steals as a sophomore.
“The kids actually voted them the two captains this year – which I think says a lot,” McCarthy said. “Brianna and Natalie have looked really good in our last three scrimmages. They have really been putting up some solid numbers.”
McCarthy went on to call Zattau a “great all-around athlete.”
“This will be her fourth year on varsity, so she brings a ton of experience,” she said. “She works hard and she’s a great leader. If we can keep her out of foul trouble, she is going to be a force to be reckoned with. She’s definitely matured from last season to this season. I’ve seen some really great moves out of her and I’m really excited to see what kind of numbers she puts up.”
McCarthy went on to say that Winkle’s tireless play as a sweeper on the Panthers fall soccer team has her in tremendous shape for basketball this winter.
“She’s been working hard underneath and her post moves have been great,” McCarthy added. “This will be her third varsity season and there’s been a great progression of maturity from her.”
Maumee’s third returning starter, sophomore point guard Brynn Brown is coming off a volleyball season in which she earned first-team honors from both the NLL and the district. She averaged 7.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2.2 assists per game while sinking 13 treys last year as a freshman.
“Brynn is just naturally athletic,” McCarthy said. “I think she sees the floor better than anyone else on the team. She’s our commander-in-chief on the floor. She’s been doing a great job of driving and scoring. She can create offensive plays for herself, but for her teammates, too.”
The final Panthers returner is junior guard/forward Sophie King, who averaged 1.6 points and 2.2 rebounds per game in limited action after battling back from a foot injury.
“Sophie worked very hard this summer,” McCarthy said. “She came to every shootout, every open gym and every summer game and that hard work is paying off. She’s not afraid to shoot the ball and her shot has looked incredible. I think she’s going to be a big positive for our offensive scheme.”
That leaves a quartet of varsity newcomers on this year’s squad.
Among them is one who hasn’t played since extremely promising junior high and freshman campaigns in senior guard Jamyson Butler, who is coming off second-team district and third-team NLL honors on the volleyball floor.
“Jamyson is very competitive and very aggressive,” McCarthy said. “We’re looking to her to balance things out on the offensive side of the ball, and she’s also been doing a great job defensively. I’m really happy to have her back. She’s a great kid.”
Junior guard Chloe Bunce will be making the jump from JV this year and could even find her way into the team’s starting lineup.
“We’ve been running a 1-2-2 in our scrimmages and Chloe’s defense is outstanding,” McCarthy said. “She creates so much chaos and so many turnovers. Her quickness and hard work have really paid off for her because she is going to have a lot of varsity minutes.”
Fresh off signing to play soccer for Defiance College on November 14, guard Abbe Rank will also make the move up from junior varsity as a senior.
“Abbe worked very hard on her shot all summer,” McCarthy said.
Maumee’s final varsity player is a true newcomer in every sense of the word. Coming off second-team district and third-team NLL soccer honors is senior Norwegian exchange student Emilie Engelien.
“This is Emilie’s first experience with basketball, but her athleticism has allowed her to pick up so much, and she has done such a great job that she will be a good asset off the bench,” McCarthy said.
“She’s strong defensively. Yesterday she got three steals and turned them all into layups. She’s incredible.”
McCarthy praised 2017-18 head coach Rod Hersha for making her transition a smooth one.
“These kids were really blessed to have Rod these past two years,” she said. “His knowledge of fundamentals and skills and the way he taught them improved all of them – program wide – by leaps and bounds.
“He was such a great teacher and so many of them have become such better players because of his teaching. I think that was a huge asset to our program.”
McCarthy has also joined John McGann and Jim Richardson in overseeing the Panthers’ youth program.
“We’ve shown a 30-percent growth,” she said. “We’re at almost 300 kids that we have playing between first and sixth grades, and I think that is going to be a big key in getting our numbers up.”
Unlike last season, this year’s program will feature a junior varsity and freshman team – in addition to the varsity squad.
“I think we’re on the right path to carry forward with what Rod started,” McCarthy said. “My goal is to make them all better. By the time we’re done, I want to see an improvement from the beginning to the end of the year. I want to see all their skillsets grow.”
McCarthy’s varsity assistant will be Justin Lau, who coached at the junior high level last year. Ryan Schalk will serve as the Panthers’ JV coach and Rafael Soler will be the freshman coach.
The motto for this year’s teams will be: “Find a way, not an excuse.”
“We are challenging them to work harder than anybody else and to find a way to improve as individuals and as a team,” McCarthy said. “No more excuses about our size, enrollment or the fact that we play mainly Division I teams – just handle business.”
Maumee will open the season with a pair of road games at Northwood on Friday and Genoa on Saturday. Both games are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.