Yough girls ‘pointing in the right direction’
Sunday, December 1, 2019 | 6:53 PM
It might not seem like much, but three victories last season was a big deal for the Yough girls basketball team. The number represented three more successful outings than a winless team in the previous year.
The idea now for the Cougars is to take another step forward.
“I feel like this year, more than any year I’ve played, people are buying in,” said Yough’s Hattie Boucher, one of just two seniors on the team.
Third-year coach Mike Gerdich certainly hopes so. He saw evidence of it during the offseason, when players showed more passion and enthusiasm during offseason training.
“Everything is pointing in the right direction for having a more competitive team,” he said. “That’s what we’re hoping for.”
Five letterwinners return, including Boucher, a 5-foot-8 forward, who was expected to open the season in the Cougars’ starting lineup after playing in a key reserve role last season.
She likely will be joined by four underclassmen: two juniors and a sophomore and a freshman.
“We do have athletic girls this year,” Boucher said.
Yough returns just two starters in 5-2 junior point guard Kaylyn Odelli and 5-6 junior forward Kylie Roebuck. Gerdich’s daughters — 5-9 sophomore guard Kayla Gerdich and 5-11 freshman center Laney Gerdich — likely will round out the starting lineup.
The other returning letterwinner is sophomore guard Makayla Dixon, and coach Gerdich is counting on contributions from 5-7 freshman guard Mikahla Chewning.
“The positive spin we look for all the time is to be competitive,” Mike Gerdich said. “We like to use our very successful soccer and softball programs as a guide. We hope that our younger people here are learning some of those concepts.”
The Yough girls soccer and softball programs in recent years have been WPIAL championship contenders.
The girls basketball team hasn’t qualified for the WPIAL playoffs since the 2009-10 team went 11-8, representing the Cougars’ most recent winning record. Yough is a combined 8-115 (.065 winning percentage) since 2013-14 and has won just 26 games since last qualifying for the playoffs.
“Last year’s group was a different group than in my first year,” Gerdich said, alluding to the team’s improved record. “We had a couple of them who stepped up, and we were able to get three wins. That was big for us.”
Gerdich, a former Saint Vincent player when the school competed in NAIA Division II before its move to Division III, said he began to understand the qualities of a successful team while playing at McKeesport under former coach Dan Pacella.
It continued when he enrolled at Saint Vincent and played for former longtime coach Bernie Matthews.
“In both instances, you were taught team basketball,” Gerdich said. “You had to be fundamentally sound to get on the floor. These are things that I’ve learned, and I’m trying to teach to our young ladies.”
Gerdich said the sport’s style of play has drastically changed over the years, but the basics still matter.
“Can you dribble? Can you pass? Can you occasionally hit a shot? Can you rebound, box out, dive on the floor?” he said. “Those are all the things that make a player complete.
“We have a great bunch of girls who don’t quit, even if they’re getting their butts whooped. They just don’t quit. They don’t give up, which is outstanding, because you can’t ask for anything more.”