The bleachers were packed Friday night as students and family cheered on the varsity team at their home game against Minooka. The girls started the first quarter with a 10-5 lead but fell short halfway through, and by the end of the third quarter, Minooka was up 38-29. The game ended with a 50-36 loss from East, but after speaking with some of the players, it became clear that they were hungry for another opportunity at a win.
Senior guard Melia Perry explained that the first two teams in conference are their biggest competition, and that the team is looking to work on their communication and bond as they continue in their season.
“Going forward we will be more successful to come up from our setbacks,” Perry said.
Senior guard Chelsea McCullum is confident that the team will be able to get past this wall. She said that East will be able to come out on top in conference and win more games in the season.
After the game, Varsity Coach Sarah Davies spoke about the high and low points of the game, and she hopes to see improvements on defensive strategies and communication between players.
“I think that they accomplished those things and hopefully going into future games we can only up our defense even more,” Davies said.
Davies also pointed out her pride in McCullum’s defensive plays despite the loss. She went on to highlight senior guard Abby Ford’s stops, explaining that Ford gives the team a good spark and does well in shifting the ball up court.
“I think those two for sure did well defensively. I’m sure we could have used a few more shots made, but I think Carly did a nice job getting some rebounds in the back. She’s pretty tough down there,” Davies said.
Junior forward Carly Engelhardt also said that the team will bounce back from the loss, and she voiced her confidence in the team, saying that they will find their way to win and beat the other teams in conference through more practices and hard work.
Coaches Abe Carretto and Davies have worked the team in conditioning and training, and they focus their practices towards defensive strategies. The coaches also gave the team opportunities to use shooting machines during the summer, and during preseason the girls had frequent open gyms before school where they would scrimmage and practice.
McCullum said that the varsity players will sometimes practice with the JV team to have competition.
“They’re always someone to play against. We also watch film from last year as well. Recently we’ve been working a lot on shooting and ball handling,” McCullum added.
Numerous practices and camps over the years is also what has kept the girls so close. Most of the teammates have been playing with each other for multiple years now, and some have been playing together for all four. The strength of the team originates from the close bond that they share on and off the court.
“We recently just had a team breakfast where we all went to Grandma’s Table, and most of us go to the boys games too. Last year we had a team dinner at least once a week and I feel like we have a great bond from that. We’re planning more events this year to bond more as a team like a team sleepover or volunteering,” Perry said.
The team is looking forward to their future games to make their place known in conference.
“In my eyes we’re still the team to beat,” McCullum said.
The girls appeared to demonstrate that very sentiment with a 62-42 win against Dekalb on Thursday night.
Kate Peplowski is a sports writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl