Hoop squad rides chemistry, resilience into heart of the season
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That was the one word that Girls Basketball Coach Corrine Ulmer chose to describe the way her team has performed during the 2016-17 season.
The “Hoop Squad” has reached new levels of success during the 2016-17 season, jumping out to a 9-6 record, 3-3 in conference as of January 27th while also winning their Thanksgiving tournament.
Along with that success, the girls have found other ways to reach the Lane community off the court.
A video titled “I am…,” surfaced on social media at the beginning of the season, in which the girls expressed their unique lives and strengths that come with their struggles and obstacles.
The ladies expressed statements such as “I am a product of a teen pregnancy,” “I am not a statistic,” and “I am a hard worker.”
Lilly noted that much improvement has been shown through social media posts and game attendance throughout the season since this video.
“It created a mentality for the team that we wanted to invoke some type of change and that we wanted to be noticed,” Lilly said. “Female athletics don’t get the advertisement or appreciation that they should and I noticed it in this school especially. We wanted to improve our standing within the school and I think it became our goal and we have seen a lot of improvement upon that this season.”
The video concluded with the team saying together, “We are fighters and our fight is worth it.”
This fighting mentality was shown when Lane took Taft all the way to the last minute in an overtime thriller Jan. 12.
“Taft has been a team that we have really struggled against and forcing an OT game against them really made us turn our attitudes around positively,” Maya Lilly, Div. 763 said.
Ulmer believes she has seen the best of her team’s work ethic and passion to win.
“You can really just see that these girls have learned how to work, and learned how to work together and that if they want it badly enough, anything is within their grasp, and that is huge,” Ulmer said.
“This team has been really resilient this season,” Lilly said. “Especially with all the injuries, after our Taft game at home the attitude has improved.”
The success this season hasn’t come all of the sudden, according to Ulmer — it has been sparked by a great 2015-16 season.
“Coming off of such a winning season [22-8], the confidence level was really high,” Ulmer said. “I think that we have had a lot of players in situations where they proved to themselves that they could win and they proved to themselves what hard work and heart can do.”
Lilly, a four year varsity player, had nothing but high praise for the team in her final year at Lane.
“In my time at Lane our best run we had was the sweet 16 of the city playoffs my freshman year, and I really want to get back there and I think this is the team that can do it,” Lilly said.
Despite the strong start, there have been injuries and low points that have at times hurt the team’s success.
“The injuries at the beginning of the year were a few key players,” Ulmer said. “Ireylen Macdiarmid is out for the season, and some key injuries with two starters and Monica Zalewska, a phenomenal point guard, I think rattled the team a little bit. But the girls want to prove to their injured teammates that they want to work for them, and that they want to do well for their teammates.
“The losses were really detrimental to our offensive and defensive fronts but we have been able to adjust really well,” Lilly said.
When it comes to other low points this season, Ulmer referenced the first meeting the team had with Taft Dec. 8, which they lost 62-38
“I don’t think that as coaches we expected the game to go the way that it did,” Ulmer said. “We let the team down as coaches, and I think that they let themselves down as a team. So we had to put our pieces back together after that one. But if anything shows the resiliency of this team, that second overtime game against Taft really does.”
Through thick and thin, the Hoop Squad has used their chemistry to navigate their way to 9 wins heading into the city playoffs and end of the regular season.
“Our chemistry had to be good because of all the adjustments we had to make,” Lilly said. “As players we have had to learn everyone’s style of play and everyone has been seeing different minutes on the court, I think that is something special and kind of different from past years.”
Ulmer had similar praises of her team.
“Our team really gets along,” Ulmer said. “They have really great chemistry on and off the court. They really care for each other and they are all rooting for the others to succeed and that is a testament to their individual character, but also the character of this team.”
Lilly echoed the Ulmers statements about the chemistry that the team has.
“Even though we are all different ages and come from different backgrounds, we are all able to come together around our love and passion for basketball and I think we have a really unique team relationship and bond,” Lilly said.
Despite tough losses and injuries, the team has still found ways to win and continue their fighting mentality.
“It isn’t always easy, and you would think it would be because they get along and are such great people,” Ulmer said. “Translating that to a game and trusting your teammate on the court takes practice and they are willing to do the work.”