At a Lakeside preseason girls basketball practice, head coach Moe McCormack paused to find the right word to describe this year's squad.
As she stood off to the side of the court with her back to the team, the girls continued their sprinting drill with no sign of slowing. Even without their coach looking, the pace remained steady without a single slacker to hold the group back.
McCormack, still searching for the right word, never once looked back to make sure the girls completed the drill. Finally, the word came to mind.
"It's the team's attitude. I think we're going to be feisty," she said, "which is going to be fun."
Feisty and fun were two words that looked foreign to a 2005-06 Lakeside girl's team that won only five games. McCormack, in her second season as head coach, said a core group of returners and some additions have turned the team in the right direction.
"We've got girls that are more tenacious players this year," McCormack said. "They're athletes that play multiple sports."
Hillary Hall and Kirtley Hitt are two of those multisport athletes. Hall just wrapped up a superb softball career and returned to the basketball court after a back injury forced her to the sideline last year. Hitt, a sweeper on the girls soccer team, is also new to the basketball court but has that athletic experience.
On top of the new players, the Lady Panthers welcome back starters Alex Cassagnol, a junior, and senior Ashley Williams. Shelby Real also is back this year after contributing off the bench last season. McCormack said the increase in experience has changed preseason practices.
"They're really smart," McCormack said. "Our offensive sets won't be as simple this year, but the girls are already saying, 'Coach, we already know it better than we did last year.'"
With stronger and bigger region competition in store for Lakeside this season, the change will be gradual. McCormack said she still expects a move in the right direction.
"We won two games two years ago and five games last year," she said. "We're still young, but we've gotten better this year. We lost games by 30 points last year. I think we're going to be much more competitive this year."
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