There's a cliche that says there's 'strength in numbers.'
Martins Ferry girls basketball coach Lindsay Coyne believes there's strength in work ethic, dedication and teamwork.
The second-year mentor firmly believes her Lady Riders have those three, which will help offset the lack of numbers as the 2013-14 season prepares to get under way.
T-L Photo/MIKE PALMER
PICTURED IS the 2013-14 Martins Ferry girls basketball team. Front row, from left, are manager Victoria Jenkins, Daleitha Johnson, Vanessa Ray, Leah Coleman, Morgan Stalder and Hayley Sutton. Back row, from left, are head coach Lindsay Coyne, assistant coach Danielle Reasbeck, Areonna Martin, Maggie Skavarka, Tyrah King, Sydney Bridges and assistant coach Paul Matuska.
"Our numbers aren't the greatest, but that's OK," Coyne said. "I am excited about the girls we have. They're bringing 100 percent effort, a positive attitude and working hard every day. So, we'll see where that takes us."
The Lady Riders have just nine players on the squad in grades 9-12, thus won't be fielding a junior varsity squad this winter.
On top of no junior varsity squad, the Lady Riders have had to find people to practice again to make sure they're getting a good enough look at things.
"It's tough, but we do it," Coyne said. "We bring people in. Whether it's the freshman boys, the coaches may have to play or whoever we can get, we have to deal with it and figure out a way. We are worried about what we can control and that's working to get better. The biggest positive in it is the girls are always playing and going hard all the time in drills and working hard to get better."
Coyne had a feeling that the numbers would drop off somewhat because of graduating claiming a five-player senior class from a squad that advanced to the OVAC Class 4A title game before falling to Steubenville.
"When you graduate a big class, it's usually tough the next season," Coyne said. "We're certainly going to miss the girls who graduated. Each one of the five brought a positive to the team. But, that's how it goes. You get four years and then you move on."
Gone is one of the top scorers in Ferry girls' basketball history in Jessica Kinney. The all-Ohioan averaged better than 20 points a game last season and scored well over 1,000 in her career.
"Losing a player like Jess is tough because you have to make up for those points somewhere," Coyne said. "Obviously, it's quite a luxury when you have a girl you know is going to get you 20 points a night."
Also collecting their diplomas were Kylie Stalder, Addie Suriano, Shaina Oberdick and Meghan Rose.
Losing that kind of production and having fewer players than normal may lead some to believe the Lady Riders are in a rebuild mode.
Coyne's not so fast to buy into that.
"I think we can be a surprise team," Coyne said. "We're getting better each day and the potential is there for us to be that team that sneaks up on some people. I am guessing some people have already checked us off on their schedule as a 'W,' but if we can stay healthy and positive, we'll surprise some people."
Another aspect that will grow as the season moves along is in chemistry as the players become more accustomed to taking on bigger roles and learning to play with each other.
"I don't know if this is the most talented group, but they're the hardest working group I've been around," Coyne said. "They just keep coming and competing. The progress is there, but we have to continue that. We can't take a day off."
Along with avoiding injury, Ferry must stay out of foul trouble. However, that won't change their approach. The Lady Riders still plan to pressure the ball and play up tempo.
"I love when we're intense and pressuring the ball," Coyne said. "I've been stressing to the girls that our best offense will be our defense. We can't have an off night on the defensive end of the floor. We'll have to rebound the ball well, too. We want to limit teams to one shot and get out and go."
Coyne admits that her first season at the helm of her alma mater was certainly a learning experience for her, too.
"There's a lot more involved than just coaching," Coyne said. "You have to learn how to deal with adversity and keep learning as you go. I think our practices have gone much better so far because they've had more flow and the girls are excited because everything is turned into a positive. I really can't ask for more than what the girls are giving me. Everything is going in the right direction."
There's just one senior on the squad. Morgan Stalder (5-6) is a returning starter and will be asked to take on a greater role on the offensive end to complement her lock-down defense.
"Morgan is really providing the leadership we need," Coyne said. "All of the girls are responding well to her. She's a good shooter, but she needs to shoot the ball with confidence. She's put in a lot of time in the summer to get better offensively and I think it's going to pay off for her."
Sophomore Tyrah King (5-10) is also going to take on a much greater role after a brilliant frosh campaign in which she saw a lot of action off the bench. King is versatile enough to play inside or outside.
"Tyrah can move like a guard, but she's also one of the strongest post players in the area," Coyne said. "She's going to be a tough guard for other teams. She's matured a lot from last year. I think the only player who can stop Tyrah is Tyrah, and I don't think that's going to happen this year."
Junior Vanessa Ray (5-7) is another player who Coyne wants to shoot with more confidence.
"Vanessa is always up beat and striving to get better," Coyne said. "Confidence is the key for her. I have the confidence in her."
The lone sophomore in the program is Areonna Martin (5-10), who can provide solid minutes off the bench.
The balance of the Lady Riders roster is freshmen and rather than getting some seasoning at the reserve level, they'll be thrown right into the fire.
"These girls have big eyes and are anxious to learn as much as they can," Coyne said. "They've taken everything we've thrown at them and continue to come each day and work as hard as possible. It's a good thing because they really want it. They want to improve and want to help the team as much as possible."
The freshman contingent is comprised of Malyah Coleman (5-6), Daleitha Johnson (5-4), Cydney Bridges (5-8), Maggie Skavarka (5-7) and Hayley Sutton (5-7).
"I coached these girls in the seventh grade, and I knew then they had a chance to be a special group," Coyne said. "It's always hard to talk about freshmen because you just don't know. They have the ability and we're continuing to coach them hard. We can see a difference in them each day."
The Lady Riders' schedule has a slightly new look. Ferry will not host a holiday tournament, play John Marshall or Shadyside this season. Instead, the Purple has added two games with Barnesville and St. John.
Along with so many new faces on the court, Coyne has an entirely new coaching staff at the varsity level. Paul Matuska and Danielle Reasbeck are the chief assistants.
Josh Cusick and Brandon Shane coach the eighth and seventh graders, respectively.