It’s been a tough season for the Emerald Ridge High girls basketball team.
In Roland Sydney’s second year since taking over the program as coach, the Jaguars have gotten younger as they try to rebuild the program to match the talent in the 4A SPSL.
“They’re young, and with a young team, you’re going to get mistakes,” said Sydney, whose team entered the week with a 6-11 overall record, including a 4-9 mark in league. “It’s (about) working with them and having them understand how to play together and how to play against the opponents they face in this league.”
Entering the season, Sydney thought he was going to have more senior leadership on his team, but after tryouts, only captain Mikayla Schwing was the senior holdover.
The rest of Jaguars’ roster is young, with one junior, Allison Zaro, and seven sophomores (4) and freshman (3) combined.
“I’m the only senior on the team, and it falls to me to help these girls take that next step in becoming leaders for the future,” said Schwing after Emerald Ridge’s 52-40 loss to Puyallup on Friday night. “They are talented girls, they just need believe in themselves if things don’t go your way.”
Co-captain Jill Harris, a sophomore, has become one of those top young players on Emerald Ridge’s roster, and earned a spot in the starting lineup with fellow sophomore Brenna Linton.
Schwing and freshmen Sammantha McGinty and Savannah Fickle round out the rest of the Jaguars’ starting five.
“We’re always trying to work hard and to improve,” Harris said. “When we make mistakes, we have to learn how to ignore it during the game and make sure we don’t let it pile up like we did (against Puyallup).”
But that’s part of the growing pains of a team full of sophomores and freshmen.
A little more than two years ago, six miles down the road another team went through the same growing pains that Emerald Ridge has gone through this season. The Rogers girls were young, and by the end of the 2014-2015 season, the Rams had exceeded expectations by reaching the West Central District III tournament.
Rogers was eliminated in the consolation bracket by Emerald Ridge.
“What a lot of these other schools have — that’s an advantage over us — is a feeder program,” Sydney admitted. “What (Emerald Ridge boys coach Pat Mullen) has done with his summer basketball programs has been incredible here. I’ve really learned a lot from him in how to establish that type of feeder program for the girls, and we started that with our girls camp this past summer.”
At that camp, and throughout the spring and summer games, the young team connected more than any other time as the girls learned how to transition into the high school game.
“We played a lot together during the summer, so we know each other more,” Fickle said.
“It’s different because you have more responsibilities with your team,” McGinty added. “They rely on you more, but at the same time, we all are supporting each other to get better and to improve.”
And that’s all that Emerald Ridge can hope for right now: to get better and come out like a ball of fire next season.