Graduation to hit girls team particularly hard
De Soto girls basketball coach Dwight Spencer said he's had an offseason like this one before. Of course that was when he first joined the program, so even that one's a little difficult to compare.
No matter what that stretch was like, it's hard to imagine a program going through more changes that the girls team will this offseason. For the first time in four years, Spencer won't be penciling guard Kira Gonzalez into his lineup, and he'll be without the swift low-post presence of Jackie Goleman, whose presence has helped define the time for the past two seasons.
He won't have his oldest daughter, 3-point ace Kaylee Spencer, to turn to in a tight spot and he'll be without the experience of Christina Davis, Sarah Lambert and Lisbeth Rosales.
Sure senior classes graduate, but Spencer said the girls basketball fortunes in 2007-2008 will be up to an entirely new cast of characters.
Still disappointed with the team's first-round exit from the sub-state tournament -- it lost 59-24 to eventual champ Tonganoxie -- Spencer said he's hardly had time to look forward yet.
"You have six seniors that graduate and they've been around playing for four years. All but one I've been around since they were in sixth grade, because of Kaylee," he said. "It's been eight years. We took a lot of lumps, but those kids kept coming back, kept getting better and kept signing up every summer.
"It is really tough."
The ugly loss to Tonganoxie capped what was a tremendously uneven season for a team that dreamt much larger than it's bottom-seed sub-state status would indicate.
Returning proven scorers in Gonzalez and Goleman, the Cats seemed to get the season started in the right way with victories in three of its first four games.
De Soto finished that stretch with a 48-45 win at Ottawa that saw Gonzalez explode for 19 points.
Everything collapsed just as quickly, however. De Soto lost the next game, it's final one before the winter break, 64-39 to Tonganoxie, then dropped four of five upon returning in January.
Team strung together three consecutive wins in February after another 1-2 stretch, but closed the season out on a slide, falling in four of the final five games.
"It's still disappointing," Spencer said. "I never felt like we came together like we have in the past. I felt we were capable of so much more than what we accomplished.
"It just makes it really frustrating. I thought we were in for a good year. The kids never questioned me and we never had a problem with attitude, but we just never got to where we were capable of."
Spencer said the team's turnover this offseason means there will be no quick fix, either. The Cats had two juniors on this year's team, starting guard Kayla Bader and 5-foot-7 Amber Wilson. But, there will be a logjam of second and third year players to fill holes with, he said.
Freshmen Kelsey Fisher and Tami Crow both earned regular minutes on the varsity floor this season and should be joined by 5-foot-8 Katie Williams next season.
Williams saw some varsity action this season, but could be the team's go-to post in a year, Spencer said.
"We've got some good kids that just don't have experience," he said. "The kids from my first year really worked hard and were at the gym everyday, so if we can do that this year, we can come back and be competitive.
"Tami and Kelsey had really good freshman years and I'm going to look for them to be corner pieces next year. Then we have some very athletic juniors -- if those kids work hard this summer they'll all be solid varsity players."