Buckeye girls basketball coach Connie Rummell didnâ€™t take long to coin a catch phrase for her team this year: â€œThe best team youâ€™ve never heard of â€¦ yet.â€
â€œWeâ€™re hoping to surprise some people and maybe have a tournament run again,â€ said Rummell, whose 2004-05 unit advanced to regionals.
If the Bucks and Rummell, who said thereâ€™s â€œno reason whatsoeverâ€ her squad canâ€™t win the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division, make that run, they will have to do it without 6-foot-3 center Marah Farage, who decided to stick to one sport on the court â€” volleyball.
The tall and athletic Farage, whose sister, Serena, plays hoops for Baldwin-Wallace College, averaged just 4.3 points off the bench as a freshman. Her impressive 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks will be tough to make up, but Rummell isnâ€™t too concerned.
â€œWe adapted to that in the summertime, so it wasnâ€™t a big surprise that all of a sudden she didnâ€™t come out,â€ said Rummell, whose team finished 9-12 overall and 9-4 in the PAC a year ago. â€œWe wish her luck. All the girls are still friends with her, but our adaptation is pretty much a combined effort.â€
Rummell revamped her style and stressed offensive balance to fit the talents of her young team last season. Though Farageâ€™s defensive presence will be missed, thereâ€™s still pieces to work with.
â€œWe are excited to get the season started with a great group of solid players that love playing together,â€ Rummell said. â€œOur team chemistry will dictate our success.â€
Senior Kristen Hare (5-8, 4.5 ppg) and junior Kelsey Knoll (5-10, 4.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg) â€” Medina Countyâ€™s top scorer in girls soccer â€” will operate in the post.
The Bucksâ€™ top offensive returnees are seniors Jessie Hall and Sylvia Stybor, who were the leading scorers from a year ago.
Hall (5-6, team-high 8.4 ppg) is arguably the most athletic player on the squad and will see time outside, while Stybor (5-4, 7.4 ppg) led Buckeye with 24 daggers from beyond the arc and 34 free throws.
The only monkey wrench is the Bucks will be without Styborâ€™s services for almost half the season due to an ACL injury.
â€œSylviaâ€™s just counting the days, the hours and the minutes,â€ Rummell said.
The fifth starter will be Meghan Joyce (5-4, jr.), Allison Urbanic (5-6, sr.) or Erika Urbanic (5-7, so.).
Rummell likes her initial starting five and either Joyce or an Urbanic off the bench, but depth is a concern. Jessi Arena (G/F, jr.) will round out the top eight players.
â€œOur balance has to be our core,â€ Rummell said. â€œFor us to go deep right now, it wonâ€™t happen the first half of the year.â€
If the PAC Stars title and the tournament run donâ€™t happen, you can bet on one thing: Buckeye will have no shortage of laughs.
â€œThey have fun, and I think in a long basketball season youâ€™ve got to have fun,â€ Rummell said. â€œThese kids really feed off each other.â€