ORLEANSâ€“Coming off a season that took them to the Division Two State Finals, the Lake Region Lady Rangers basketball team will have their work cut out for them if they wish to get back to Barre in 2012.
Head Coach Mark Tinker is realistic about what he lost from last season, but that means in no way he is not confident about his team this year.
"It is going to be different. We graduated some seniors that have been pretty instrumental in the program since they were freshman and sophomores and on up through.
"We are going to have some holes to fill, but I think some of these girls are going to step up."
One position that will remain filled for hopefully the entire season will be that of Kylie Atwood.
The senior guard and 2010-2011Vermont Gatorade Player of the Year is returning from a torn ACL, and has been cleared to participate in all basketball activities as the team gets ready for this year's campaign.
"She's still in recovery mode with the ACL injury. She's still not 100 percent. She knows that and we know that, but I have every confidence that as the season wears on she will work herself back into game shape. She has been improving ever time out since she has been cleared to play.
"She is going to work her way back to where she was and beyond."
Says Atwood on the recovery process, "I had three to four days of physical therapy a week and I would try to do my own basketball work on the side. Now that I can play I basically do all the practices every day and try to do some weights and work out on my own to get stronger."
It goes without saying that the opposition will focus their efforts on Atwood, but Coach Tinker is well aware of this, and is already looking to have things in place to combat these schemes.
"We've talked about it a little bit (in the past), but we found that with just doing the things we were supposed to do she was able to play her game. We have a couple other players that people are not going to be able to overlook as well," said the coach.
The team will be lead by a group of six seniors, Atwood, Cailyn Gallup, Emily Comins, Sara Piette, Sarah Bedard, and Autumn Beaton who will look to guide the younger players out on the hardwood.
The offense will primarily be a guard based attack that will look to expose the other teams when they start to cheat in their coverage.
"We are going to be very guard oriented. We haven't been very big in a long time, and we keep getting smaller," says Tinker, "We're not huge, but I think we can hold our own in there. We are going to have to play smart, and we are going to have use position and play as a group."
On the defensive side of things look for primarily a man-to-man based coverage system as well as a few surprises here and there to give the other teams in D II some different looks and keep them off balance.
"We have been complimented time and time again about our ability to play team defense. We do not get a lot of dribble penetration against us, we try to take away driving lanes, but we are going to really have to work hard on the boards because we are giving up some size and athleticism.
The shift in athleticism from last year's team to the years' is something that Tinker and Atwood both touched on last Friday.
While both conceited that the 2011-2012 Lake Region team is less athletic than in season's past, what is special about this team is the group chemistry and high basketball IQ that the squad has to offer.
"It's a good group," says Tinker, "Chemistry wise they seem to be doing really well, and I like some of the things I've been seeing and hearing and we are going to try to build on that."
"I think our chemistry will bring us really far. It should be a lot of fun and it is a great group of girls this year," said Atwood,"We have a very intelligent team as far as knowing the game goes. I think we pick up plays and defenses really well."
We will see how far the team's chemistry and mental toughness take them when the Lady Rangers hit the court on the 16th of December to kick off their season against Lyndon Institute.