E is for ‘experience’
Five seniors make up the Lady Marlins varsity roster, and the remaining four are juniors.
Coach Stephanie Cowen views being “senior heavy” as a good thing.
“They’ve had a lot of playing time together, and they’ve been successful,” she said.
Besides, she said, those seniors -- and the juniors – are good leaders for the younger players.
Cowen said the upper classmen have to be leaders with such a large group of freshmen – there are 11 of them.
“That’s a lot,” she said.
Cowen responded to the combination of leadership and inexperience by pairing up the younger players with older players in a version of a Big Sisters program.
The Big Sister program extends into the middle school.
“It gives the junior high kids someone to watch, and that makes us one big program,” Cowen said.
Besides using all that experience to help younger players, Cowen will take advantage of the players’ experience with one another to toss in a few changes on offense.
Because they are familiar with one another’s playing style, Cowen wants to give them more freedom on the offensive side.
“That will be an adjustment,” she said, “and it will take time.”
Meanwhile, “We’re working on shooting, shooting, shooting,” Cowen said.
Because they don’t have size on their side, Cowen said, “We’re not a tremendous rebounding team. That’s where our aggressiveness will take over.”
And that means limiting turnovers.
Cowen is banking on the Lady Marlins’ aggressiveness with the press and their three-point shooting to reach their goal.
Last year’s area loss “was not what we planned,” Cowen said.
This year, the players are focused on making it to the regional tournament.
While Cowen shares their ambition, it was the team that established the regional tournament as the focus.
“It’s easer to talk about it and work for it when it’s their own goal,” Cowen said.
“That’s not a ceiling,” Cowen said. “We’d love to advance (out of the regional tournament).”
Last year, the Lady Marlins were dogged by injuries: Knees, ankles, “freak things,” Cowen said.
As a result, there was a revolving door on the starting lineup.
The Lady Marlins spent their summer at open gym and playing on a league in Sinton, which means they stayed in pretty good shape.
That will translate into a healthy starting lineup this year. Senior Rachael Phillips is back after an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear, and Katelin Dupnik, also a senior, is off the injured list, having recovered from an ACL sprain.
Juniors Chelsea Perez at 5’ 8” and Tarryn Murray at 5’7” will contribute with their size, Cowen said, adding that Kelsey Ortiz, also a junior, brings athleticism that compensates for skills she is still developing.
Also, several Lady Marlins participated – and still are – in cross-country.
That training helps them not only physically, but also toughens them mentally, Cowen said.
The Lady Marlins had a soft opening with a scrimmage on Saturday, Oct. 31, in Robstown. They don’t get their first taste of the regular season until Tuesday, Nov. 10, when they host Bloomington.
Their pre-district schedule is a mixed bag of competitive and not-so-competitive teams, but the Marlin Classic, Nov. 19-21, will be a chance to try out some of their new strategies before district, which starts Jan 8.
Pettus, another strong team, lost several seniors, but “is playing well,” according to Cowen.
Yorktown is a question mark. They have a new coach and went through some “bumps with ACL injuries, so I’m not sure about them,” Cowen said.
One thing Cowen is sure of is what is expected of her, both in the classroom and on the court.
“When I came to Port Aransas, the expectations were clear. That creates more confidence for me and the kids,” Cowen said.
In her second year at the helm of the Lady Marlins, Cowen said some of the players had never had a coach other than her predecessor, Randy Henderson.
“It was confusing for them last year. This year, they know what to expect from me, and they know what my expectations are for them,” she added.
“They’ve opened up; we now have a rapport, and I’ve enjoyed the process,” Cowen said.
She also enjoys the community support, “their positive comments and encouraging words,” she said.
“The kids thrive in that environment,” Cowen said.
It will be in that environment that the 2009-10 Lady Marlins put in double the work and hope to reap triple the success – or more.
If the season’s first scrimmage on Saturday, Oct. 31, was any indication, the Lady Marlins are headed in the right direction.
“I was pleased with our first performance. We dressed six varsity players along with a few JVplayers. Our fullcourt and half-court pressure were bright spots along with our perimeter shooting. We handled the pressure well, with very few turnovers against the full court press. We need to continue to focus on our defensive rotations and on rebounding,” Cowen said.