By Alexa Nealy
This 2015-16 season of girls basketball at University was a relative success. Finishing with an overall record of 16 wins and 9 losses, the team improved significantly from the 2014-15 season, in which the girls finished with 5 wins.
In addition to an increase in victories, the team saw an increase in players. Last season, due to injury, the team had only 6 girls playing in the sectional game against the Indiana School for the Deaf. This year, the team had 14 girls, including two seniors (Allie Towriss and Cyan Cosby), four juniors (Maggie Klemsz, Kelsey Miller, Honor Cosby, and Emma Caress), three sophomores (Riley Spitzenberger, Shelby Wood, and Alexa Nealy), and five freshman (Lily Snyder, Lucy Snyder, Meredith Malott, Meredith Rodgers, and Halle Von Ah).
Although the returning girls were very thankful to former Coach Stacey Summitt-Mann, as well as sad to see her leave the program, they were equally as excited to welcome Coach Justin Blanding. Blanding noted that he had wanted to join the girl’s coaching staff for a few years, saying that he had “applied to be the girls coach at University three times.” He was excited to finally be able to switch gears and coach girls at University, as he coaches AAU teams and was also was on the boy’s coaching staff at UHS prior to this season. Coach Erion Clark continued to be an assistant coach for the girls alongside Coach Lade Akande, who also joined the team this season.
Because of previous records, the girls team was regarded by those commenting on high school sports in Indiana as a small team that wasn’t capable of much, even going so far as to say that Coach Blanding would be making a poor career decision to coach the girls at University. However, he clearly proved them wrong, stating that “regarding coaching strategy, we do what we do well as a team because we continue to work hard for a winning record, despite what other people think about our size and skill.”
When asked about his favorite moments of the season, Blanding responded, “One of my favorite moments was beating International (a major rival in girls basketball), and also, honestly, Friday night (the girls’ last sectional game against Tindley, which resulted in a loss) when we walked off the court. After a tough year of adversary, we still had pride being able to see that the program is definitely going in the right direction.”
Heading in the right direction is exactly what Coach plans on continuing to do. When asked about his goals and expectations for the team in the future, Blanding said that he is excited “to build on the system that we already have established this season and enhance it as we’re getting used to it, as well as off-season training, which will contribute to this greatly.”
It’s clear that everyone is definitely excited about next season because of all the growth and changes that have occurred this year. Blanding says, “I had seen the most growth in the team after our away game against Bethesda when we were behind by 12 at halftime and managed to come back and win, because we started to believe in ourselves.” This must have been true, as the girls continued a 5-game winning streak after this game against Bethesda Christian.
The girls made it into the post-season this year after winning their first scheduled sectional game against Indiana School for the Deaf with a score of 57 – 49, and their season came to an end after a loss against Tindley. The players all agreed that it had been a successful season and that there is a lot of excitement for the next one, although seniors Cyan Cosby and Allie Towriss, as well as their hard work and dedication to the team, will be missed next season. The whole team is very thankful for both of the seniors, as well as Coaches Blanding, Akande, and Clark.