COAL CITY — Coal City's three leading varsity girls basketball scorers from 2011-12 —Interstate Eight All-Conference picks Emily Halliday and Britta Spelde and senior Donjetta Shabani — are back.
They are, however, three of just six Lady Coalers with any varsity experience. Their roster consists of two seniors, three juniors, six sophomores and a freshman. Coach Brad Schmitt expects his bench to include some underclassmen who will have just finished playing in the sophomore game.
The players projected to start for Coal City — junior Brittany Jezik at point guard, Halliday and sophomore Nicole Borgetti at off guard and Spelde and Shabani at forward — have been put on notice that rest may be hard to come by. They will be spelled by senior forward Annie Hawkinson, sophomores Madyson Bunton, Rebecca Cash, Alicia Matusiak, Carly Pavlis and Kendall Pirc and freshman MaKenna Emerson.
"The five girls we start should all get quality minutes because we don't have a lot of depth," Schmitt said. "It comes down to if they can stay out of foul trouble and stay on the floor. ... We put in a lot of time over the summer, and that's helped make our girls a lot more confident and a lot more prepared to handle what we're asking of them."
Halliday, Shabani and Spelde all play volleyball for the Lady Coalers. Halliday says "it's a lot different" being in shape for basketball than for volleyball, and with the short time between seasons, the turnaround could be tough.
"We don't have a lot of subs, so we'll have to conserve our energy when we can," Spelde said. "In practice, we don't do a lot of running in (sprints). We do our shooting drills and our other regular drills, and besides that, we don't do a lot of running up and down. It's more (distance) running."
With the starters that are back, the Lady Coalers feel good about their chances of improving their 15-15 record from a year ago. Halliday is back after averaging 13.5 points and 7.1 rebounds a game. Spelde scored 8.7 points while shooting nearly 44 percent from the field in 2011-12. Shabani was a 6.6 points per game scorer as a junior.
"Our team goals are definitely to win (the Interstate Eight) conference," Halliday said. "One of my personal goals it go get better on free throws (after making 50.8 percent in 2011-12). I'd also like to be on the All-Conference team again."
Schmitt sees Seneca, Lisle, Plano and Peotone as likely contenders in the I-8, but his players think the Lady Coalers have a chance to top the heap.
"Honestly I think we can if we push ourselves to do it," Spelde said. "Winning conference and having a good team season are the biggest things for me."
Coal City, which went 6-5 in I-8 play last season, will begin conference play Nov. 26 at home against Manteno. That is its first scheduled game following the Ladycat Fall Classic at Beecher, which runs from Friday until next Tuesday.
"We always set the same goals," Schmitt said. "We want to win the conference, and if we can't do that, we want to finish in the top three. We've fallen short of that by one or two spots in the past couple of seasons, and we're looking to get back to where we were."