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Elms basketball team out to best start in three years…

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Varsity BBall 16-17 (2)

1/19/2017 – West Side Leader

By Sean Patrick

WEST AKRON — Head coach Kathy Bline said this year’s Our Lady of the Elms High School basketball team has shown a great deal of improvement throughout the season.

“From October to January has been a huge jump,” she stated. “I’m happy with where we are heading. When you end a season and you’re playing at your highest level, you want the next season to start right where you left off. Well, I’m happy with where we are right now and I am really excited about where we are going.”

After finishing last season with a 5-15 record, Bline said this year’s team was out to a 4-6 start through Jan. 17.

“This year is the best start we have had over the last three years,” she said. “This year’s team has more players on the team coming in with more experience than years past. We have a small team in regard to numbers [with] eight total, but four are returning from last year.”

The returning players on this year’s squad (with quotes on each by Bline) are as follows:

  • Sophomore post player Amanda Rokicky: “She always plays the post very strong. She’s our go-to person defensively, where we can put her up against one of the other team’s good post players and I know she isn’t going to foul.”
  • Junior guard Toni Chinchar: “She’s been our leading scorer the last two years, and her skills have improved greatly in terms of ball-handling and penetrating to the basket.”
  • Junior guard Audrey Holcomb: “Offensively, Audrey is second on the team to Toni. She has really got her confidence built up and she’s someone who will take charge. She is an all-around player for us and she’s very strong.”
  • Sophomore center Theresa Damm: “Theresa’s been injured. She had a concussion and she’s been out for over a month, and that’s really stymied us a little bit. She’s a huge rebounder and the other girls have had to adapt to her absence. She’s anxious to get back and we are anxious to get her back. She should be coming back in another week or so, but obviously her health is the No. 1 factor, so we are taking it very slow.”

According to Bline, Chinchar and Holcomb are the team captains this season.

“Those two are our team leaders and they play very well together,” the coach said. “They’ve been together and started at the Elms since they were freshmen. Neither one of them is afraid to take the ball and perform, especially when it’s crunch time.”

Overall, Bline said this year’s squad has experience but is still “a young team.”

“We have two juniors [Chinchar and Holcomb] and three sophomores [Rokicky, Damm and guard Audrey Calvin],” she said. “We also have three freshmen this year [Angel Valentine, Bella Vesco and Ariel Jendrisak].”

Bline said the four new players have “added strength and experience” to the roster.

“Audrey Calvin was injured last year, so she didn’t play. But she is very fast and she has quick hands. She is someone I can turn to when I need to put pressure on a ball-handler,” the coach said. “Angel is someone we can play at the point or also at the shooting guard. She has adapted to the high school level very well and is a great asset to us, especially as a ball-handler. Bella is starting for Theresa and as a freshman she is very aggressive. She is a strong shooter and she is working on taking what she is learning in practice and applying it in the games. You can really see her coming out of her shell and becoming a good player. And Ariel is also starting to come on for us. Physique-wise, she is one of the tiniest players we have, but her shot is very pure and she is really getting her confidence. She is starting to believe in herself the way that I believe in her.”

Some realistic goals for the team for the remainder of this season, Bline said, are to “keep getting better and to stay positive and confident.”

“I am not sure they know just how good they can be yet,” she said. “That takes some time and with the leadership of the four returning players, this can be accomplished pretty quickly. I look for the entire team to step up and be proud of the work they have accomplished thus far, and remain committed to themselves and each other to work hard and keep improving. Positive mental attitudes and a strong commitment can be the difference for any team to propel themselves far and allow them to achieve their goals. I tell the players I see so much potential in them and expect them to continue to work hard and just keep getting better.”

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