POULSBO — Any team that has the experience on the incoming Poulsbo Panthers girls basketball varsity squad, is already one step ahead of the game.
This year’s Panthers have played together through the school program as well as in rec league programs. Some of them have been on the court together since elementary school.
“They don’t have a lot of varsity experience, but a lot of these kids play outside of what we offer,” Poulsbo Junior High head coach Karla DeVries said. “And most have experience within the system from last year’s JV.”
With three returners from last year’s varsity — Crystal Hart, Brandi Ritter and Taylor Ottomano — and nearly the rest of the squad hailing from last year’s JV team — which finished 8-2 — the Panthers’ varsity roster features all freshmen for the first time in DeVries’ tenure.
And the potential of that roster is exciting for players and coaches alike.
“They’ve got it all down physically … now they just have to believe,” said assistant volunteer Steve Harris.
“I don’t want to sound bad, but I think we’re going to have a pretty good team,” said Nikki Taplin, who is making the step up from JV. “There’s a lot of people who have been playing and improving … me, Destiny (Sanchez), Courtney (Coleman), Brandi (Ritter) and Crystal (Hart) have been playing together since third grade.”
Planning to build on the team chemistry which is already in place, DeVries said the team still has a fair amount strategizing and mental work to do. At practice Wednesday, the Panthers segued from a full slate of fundamental drills to putting in their basic offensive plays and defensive formations. Just around the corner at 3 p.m. Feb. 13, Poulsbo will open its season at home against the Central Kitsap Cubs.
“We’ll have what we need to survive,” DeVries said of the first game. “(The Panthers) are all pretty sound fundamentally, but we really need to work on our sets. Which is hard to do when half the team is out sick.”
DeVries said while the boys junior high basketball teams battled the weather this year during their season — December and January — the girls teams annually quarrel with sickness during their season — spanning February and March.
On Tuesday alone, six players were out sick, while DeVries battled a cold herself.
And with only 11 sessions between the first day of practice and when the season begins, lost time can be a crutch — especially when one’s first opponent is a team like CK.
“It’s a really tough opener because CK is always strong,” DeVries said. “Seems as if going into the season you’ll have some rough edges, and you certainly don’t want to smooth out those edges against a team like CK.”
Regardless, DeVries said she looks forward to seeing the team improve and grow into a varsity unit over the course of the season.