Valley looks to add victories with deeper lineup
Monday, December 4, 2017 | 10:18 PM
Last year, the Valley girls basketball team struggled with numbers.
The Vikings started the season with eight players on the roster and were down to five for their season finale against Shady Side Academy.
But the numbers game is more in Valley's favor this year, as 13 are on the roster. From coach Jason Kerr to his players, the benefit is seen with the ability to work on more things in practice. They hope that can translate into better results on game night.
“I think the program is finally turning around,” senior guard Maddie Hill said. “We have more interest, which definitely helps.”
The Vikings snapped a long losing streak last year, but they finished only 1-19 and were winless in Section 1-4A. They averaged only 17 points a game and surrendered 55.
“We have higher expectations now than last year,” Hill said. “A lot of the girls have improved. Last year, we were just learning how to play. This year, I think we can play better and win some games.”
Hill is one of four starters back to help Valley in its effort to increase its point and win totals.
Also returning are fellow senior guard Anna Walkowiak, junior center Auveonna Perkins and the tallest player on the roster, 5-foot-10 center/forward Adriona Lyons.
“We had great attendance for summer workouts,” Walkowiak said. “We came into preseason practices knowing exactly what we needed to do because we were prepared from the offseason. We have the attitude to be a winning team. We have to keep working hard and be ready to produce wins. We always say, ‘Why can't we do it?' ”
The varsity rotation is bolstered with second-year players: sophomore guards Deisha James and Domenica Wolfe, as well as newcomers Alex Guy, a sophomore forward, and Emma Ward, a freshman guard.
“We've grown through all of the tough experiences, including last year,” Perkins said. “We're just taking it a game at a time. We have to be patient and not get frustrated when things don't go our way.”
Kerr, in his third season at the helm of the Vikings, said he has seen improvement in the veteran players over the past two seasons despite just the one victory in 41 total games.
“Some of the girls have been here for three years, so they are pretty comfortable with the system and what to expect. They've come a very long way,” he said.
“With some of the new people coming in, we're hoping it will make a difference to be more competitive and win more games.”
Kerr said competitive growth has its source in the team's practices since preseason workouts began Nov. 17.
“It's really nice to have this many in practice because even when we had eight players, we couldn't go five-on-five,” he said. “Our practices basically were our games. With 13, we can work on everything we want for the game. We're adding a lot more stuff. The girls welcome and appreciated that.”
The team scrimmaged Brashear on Nov. 25, and Kerr said while he saw a lot still to work on, he also witnessed the spark of good play.
“We expect to be pressed a lot,” he said. “We've been working a lot on the press breakers. One of the biggest issues has been us getting pressured in the backcourt, and we struggle to get it across.”
Valley will travel to Springdale for a scrimmage Tuesday at 4 p.m. before opening the season against the Dynamos at 3:30 p.m. Friday at the Springdale tip-off tournament.
The Vikings also will play Saturday in the consolation or championship game.
Valley defeated Springdale, 30-18, last year for its lone win.
“We may not be the best team all the time, but we can control our effort and our hustle. We can make it difficult on other teams,” Kerr said.
“The girls understand where they've been and where they want to go with this program. No matter how big or small, it's about continuing to take that next step forward.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
More High School Basketball• Gateway’s Lexi Jackson looks forward to career at Kent State
• Westmoreland notebook: Belle Vernon freshman’s research project catches eye of WNBA
• PIAA tightens competitive balance formula for football, basketball transfers
• Belle Vernon freshman Viva Kreis gets behind-the-scenes look at WNBA
• Burrell grad Fantuzzo returns to coach basketball at alma mater