Last season, Brunswickâ€™s girls basketball team used its leadership to win the schoolâ€™s first district title in 15 seasons.
This winter, that same guidance will be needed again, but for a different purpose as their returning players will join a handful of rookies.
â€œYou have kids who played integral roles last season in a regional run, and then you have kids who have never stepped on a varsity court,â€ coach Paul Gerycz said. â€œSo, itâ€™s been neat to see the older kids help the younger kids out.â€
To test that leadership, Gerycz and his staff went to the extent of taping the dayâ€™s practice schedule on the wall and seeing if the seniors could organize the drills.
Seniors like point guard Kelsey Durichko, power forward Allie Martin and shooting guard Jess Mangus â€” starters on last yearâ€™s 19-5 squad â€” not only were able to coordinate the rookies, they showed the fifth-year coach their leadership qualities.
â€œFrom the very beginning of the year, I told them it was who was going to step up and be that leader â€” whether vocal or by example,â€ Gerycz said. â€œI told them itâ€™s up to you guys, and the seniors took it upon themselves to say this is the next drill and this is what we need to do. Thatâ€™s what you look for.â€
Players like Durichko realize how critical they will be in the transition.
â€œI feel like I definitely have to lead the younger players,â€ Durichko said. â€œBecause once I leave, the younger players have to take my spot.
â€œI feel like I have to show them the ropes and how itâ€™s done.â€
Durichko, who stands 5-foot-4, had a standout 2006-07 campaign, dishing out a Medina County-best 6.8 assists to go with 6.0 points and 2.5 steals a contest.
Martin (6-2, F) and Mangus (5-10, G) also bring strong resumes into this season.
Martin chipped in 8.0 points and ripped down 5.7 boards in her first varsity season, while Mangus was one of the best outside shooting threats in the area with 10.0 points, including a .345 shooting percentage from beyond the arc.
Sophomore center Brooke Forsythe was penciled to start alongside Martin, but a preseason knee injury will sideline the 6-2 post for six weeks.
Guard Kayla Durichko (5-5) and forward Mikaela Lengal (5-10) will likely fill out the starting lineup.
Additional playing time will be up for grabs in Geryczâ€™s fast-break offense. Seniors Kayla Kirkpatrick (5-3), Dayna Yanus (5-8), junior Emily Kuhn (5-8) and freshman Annie Sofranko (5-5) will come off the bench.
Gerycz feels a potent offense, combined with a defense that allowed just 41.4 points last season, will be the key to a successful season and a return trip to the Sweet 16.
â€œIt was a first time of all of us in regionals, me included,â€ Gerycz said. â€œWhen you get a little taste of that, you want more of it.
â€œOur big thing is we want to have a good showing in our new league (Northeast Ohio Conference) and weâ€™re not worried about the tournament right now, to be honest with you. We are worried about starting off strong, getting better and playing our best basketball when the end of the year comes.â€