Jenny Schmutzler believes the first thing that needs to happen for her Chambersburg girls basketball team is an attitude adjustment.
"We're coming off a year with five wins, so we have to come in with a different attitude," said Schmutzler, the Trojans' first-year head coach. "I've told them they have just as much of a chance as anybody to do well, but they have to keep working harder in practice and realize they could do something special this year and surprise a lot of people."
Chambersburg opens against James Buchanan on Friday at 4 p.m. in the opening game of the Franklin County Tip-Off Tournament at Waynesboro.
Schmutzler said, "I have a lot of confidence in the girls and we're building trust both ways. But we need to get more mature in our basketball mentality."
That maturity starts with a pair of seniors who have started for the past two years - shooting guard Darra Walker and forward Marshay Ryan. Walker scored just under 10 points per game (9.8) and Ryan averaged 11.3 last year.
"Walker has a very nice shot, can get penetration and can handle the ball," Schmutzler said. "She can hit the big shot when we need it. Ryan is a pure athlete who can get to the rim. She will bust her butt on defense and is always talking on the court. I count on her to be a leader out there."
The rest of the projected starting lineup includes senior point guard Tayana Harrison, a third-year varsity player; Jenn Grove, a sophomore inside player who got plenty of minutes as a freshman; and junior Mandy Bell, who saw some varsity time last year.
Schmutzler said, "Harrison will run the point and is starting to hit some jumpers. She wants to do the little things well and I'm excited to see what she can do. Bell is a smart player who knows where to be on defense and has a nice shot. Grove is coming back from ACL surgery. She was cleared in November and we didn't expect her back that early. She's mixing it up inside and is our go-to big."
The Trojans appear to have good athleticism, decent size (especially off the bench) and some quickness.
Schmutzler is all right with that for now.
"We have so many talented players, but no superstars, and I like that," she said. "We have so many individuals who can step on the floor and play different roles. The good thing is we don't have anybody who can't score, like if we had some players who played only defense. That should make it harder to defend us.
"But we really haven't meshed yet on offense we've been a little sloppier than I'd like. We need to get confidence and get our timing down. We only have three or four varsity players back and we're learning a new offense."
The coach is happier about her defense at this point.
"No question, the defense is better than the offense, and we've worked hard on that," Schmutzler said. "If we can shut a team down, that's fewer points we have to score. We're athletic and quick, so if we play good defense and push the ball up the court, that's less half-court we have to play. I just don't want to see us run-and-gun and have too many turnovers."
Ideally, the trio of Walker, Ryan and Grove will be consistent scorers.
"Then, if we can just get six to eight points from some of the others, we should be OK," Schmutzler said.
The backup guards include Crystal Thomas, who played previously at Harrisburg, freshman Claire Jacobs and a project in Angeline Hang, a point guard with potential.
Kaitlyn Rush and Shannon Edwards played JV last year and had a cup of coffee with the varsity, while Elaine Etter is another underclass inside player, but she's out for a while with an injury.
Schmutzler said, "I think we have 11 players who are pretty good and I can put any of them in there. I feel like there are spots open for anyone to grab. It's just a matter of who's playing well and how big we need to be for our opponent."
Those opponents will be tougher than ever. The Commonwealth Division lost Bishop McDevitt and Cedar Cliff - normally two of the lower-tier teams - while picking up State College and Mifflin County. The Little Lions are always pretty tough and girls basketball may be Mifflin County's best program. Schmutzler sees Central Dauphin and Cumberland Valley as perhaps the two biggest hurdles.
While doing everything she can to help the Trojans be more competitive this season, Schmutzler is also looking ahead. She knows that in order to turn the program around into a consistently winning venture, some changes need to be made.
"I need our coaches at the lower levels to teach fundamentals better," she said, "and we have to implement the things we're doing up here at a younger age. I have three new coaches in middle school, so this is a transition year.
"But ultimately we have to focus on fundamentals and raising the girls' basketball IQ. If you have a fundamentally sound team, it makes it harder to beat you."
Schmutzler hopes some of that is in evidence as early as this year.
Ed Gotwals can be reached at 262-4755 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trojans at a glance
Coach: Jenny Schmutzler, first year.
Last year: 5-17 (3-11 Mid Penn Commonwealth Division).
Starters lost: Brittney Hickey (P.O. Second Team); Hunter Martin; Liashira Rivera (did not come out).
Returning starters: Marshay Ryan (sr., 5-7, F, 11.3 points per game, P.O. First Team); Darra Walker (sr., 5-6, SG, 9.8 ppg, P.O. Honorable Mention).
Other top players: Tayana Harrison (sr., 5-5, G, 1.8 ppg); Jenn Grove (so., 5-10, F/C, 2.9 ppg); Mandy Bell (jr., 5-5, G); Shannon Edwards (jr., 5-10, C); Kaitlyn Rush (so., 5-10, G/F); Angeline Hang (jr., 5-3, PG); Crystal Thomas (jr., 5-4, G); Elaine Etter (jr., 5-11, C); Claire Jacobs (fr., 5-6, G).
Season opener: Friday, in Franklin County Tip-Off Tournament, vs. James Buchanan, at Waynesboro, 4.