Area girls hoops teams look for improvements
ENOLA -- Most of Franklin County's girls basketball teams have a pretty simple goal: Get better.
Three of the five county teams finished well under .500 a year ago, but expectations at Wednesday's Mid Penn Conference Basketball Media Day were soaring.
"Last basketball season, we had what we had (a 7-15 record)," Shippensburg's Liz Logan said. "But from the point that basketball season was over, we've been in the gym three days, usually for two hours, every week. We've never had a break, so a lot of us have improved a lot."
The Lady Hounds have been under the direction of coach Andrew Markel for a full season now, and that seems to have made a big difference. Not only do the players know what to expect from Markel, but he knows what to expect from his team.
"This is my first full year to really have the program embrace my ideologies and what I feel like we should be doing," Markel said. "Last year was a nightmare in terms of getting everyone together. There were four coaches in four years; it was rough. Even now, it could be better, but when we start winning, people will get interested."
There's another new kid on the block who would like to see a drastic change. Barry Purvis, more aptly called an old kid on the block, is back after a nearly 20-year hiatus, and he's tasked with turning around a seriously struggling program. The Trojans have not had a winning season since 2006-07.
"It's not difficult; it just takes a lot of work, time and effort," Purvis said. "You gotta let the girls know you really care about what they're trying to do and where you're trying to go with the program. We're working really hard, and I think the girls are just anxious to get some wins under their belt."
Seniors Liz Bishop and Lindsay Embly attended Mid Penn Media Day along with Purvis, and both reiterated just how much they'd like to play in the postseason.
"We want to make it so bad," Embly said. "One thing that really motivated me is when we were in our last open gym, and we were talking about shoes. Coach Purvis said that we would be wearing our shoes 23 times, which is one game into the playoffs."
Meanwhile, at James Buchanan, the Rockets are hoping to prove that last year wasn't a fluke. A season ago, JB finished 14-10 and made the District 3 Class AAA Tournament for the first time in nine years.
"Our No. 1 goal is to get to the playoffs again," Rocket guard Rachel Martin said. "We'd like to get past the first round. The big thing, there were games that we could've won last year, so we need to work on finishing out. We'd also like to beat Greencastle once, maybe twice or three times."
James Buchanan also has the benefit of having some coaching continuity as Jen Lauthers heads into her third season at the helm.
"It's a lot different, but in a good way," JB's Charity Miller said. "We have a lot more plays, and we're actually executing things better. It's more focused than things were in the past."
BRINGING THE HEAT >> One team that doesn't need to focus on getting better is Greencastle-Antrim. They need to work on maintaining.
The Blue Devils finished 25-4, including going undefeated in the Mid Penn Colonial Division, and won the District 3 Class AAA crown.
"I feel pretty good about the season," Greencastle coach Mike Rhine said. "I've got three very talented starters coming back. They've been down the road, and they know how we play. We lost a lot of production and senior leadership."
G-A graduated Katie Gelsinger and Jane Herman but return the likes of Hannah Crist and Jenay Faulkner. Greencastle's other returning starter is Meghan Hirneisen.
"Meghan got a lot better last year, both on defense and on offense," Faulkner said. "She knew when to shoot the ball and knew when to box out for us. She always did the little things, like diving on the floor for a loose ball, to help us win games."
Although Crist and Faulkner will be relied upon heavily this season, they aren't letting the pressure get to them.
"Like coach Rhine says, we don't have anything to prove," Faulkner said. "We both play AAU, where I feel like there is a lot more pressure because you're playing in front of college coaches. I feel like we're almost immune to the pressure."
Hopefully that bodes well, as the Blue Devils look to stay atop the girls basketball ladder in the area.