LIGONIER — The West Noble girls won their first sectional in 31 years last season, and head coach Dale Marano expects no drop off after the graduation of six seniors from that championship team.
“Same thing,” Marano said as far as expectations for this year’s team. “When we walked into the gym (for our first practice), it’s the same thing, same expectations. Our fans are going to enter our gym, and they expect us to win every night. That’s not going to change. I think we’re up for the challenge.”
West Noble lost Madison Schermerhorn, Lauren Burns, Megan Godfrey, Tori Miller, Tara Miller and Angela Gross to graduation. The six players combined to average 34.9 points per game for a team that scored 49 points per contest. Schermerhorn led the team in rebounds, assists, steals and blocks last season.
Under the direction of Marano, the Chargers have finished with a winning record in 10 of the last 13 seasons, including back-to-back 18-win seasons.
“We return four girls who were on our sectional championship team from last year. One of them, Lilly Mast, was our leading scorer, so that’s a really good place to start,” Marano said.
Now a junior, Mast averaged 10.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 1.8 assists per game last season.
“Last year’s team was extremely balanced. I look for her to take more of a scoring role, in particular early on. We have a lot of girls that can score, but with her experience, I think she’s going to take a little bit more of that role upon herself,” Marano said of Mast. “I think Nichelle (Phares) will do the same. I look for Erin (Shoemaker) and I look for Jazmyn (Smith) and I look for many of the other girls to step up as the year goes on.”
Phares played in all 24 games as a sophomore last season and averaged 2.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg and 1.2 spg. Smith, a sophomore, and Shoemaker, a junior, appeared in seven and 12 games, respectively, for the Chargers. Shoemaker will be a guard playing alongside Mast, and Smith gives West Noble size inside.
Marano expects the new group of young talent to come in and compete for playing time and make an impact right away. He said after the first four starting spots, it’s wide open for who could step up.
“A lot of people don’t realize this, but the last couple of years we’ve had really successful JV (junior varsity) teams, and for those girls now it’s their opportunity,” Marano said. “They’ve been waiting their turn.”
Marano said the junior class, which is eight girls, has played together since they were in third grade. Similar to last year’s senior class.