Second-year coach Nathan Morris hopes to lead his Wellington Dukes girls to continued improvement on the hardwood. But that will have to come through youth with only two seniors on the roster.
His team finished 5-17 last season and 5-11 in the Patriot Athletic Conference. A big challenge starting off this campaign will be overcoming the loss of last year’s leading scorer, Logan Simmons, who is out of action due to having knee surgery at the end of the 2015-2016 season.
Those expected to step in to fill the void are senior Sam Sparks, who averaged six points per game in PAC play last season and 6-foot sophomore Alexis Lehmkuhl, who notched 6.5 in her freshman year.
“We’re returning three starters,” said Morris. “We lost five seniors and our leading scorer so that’s something we have to overcome early. The year before last was 1-22 and the one before that was 2-21. So, five wins was a step forward for us. It’s not where we want to be but it was a step forward. To keep that going we have to work hard in practice and help each other get better.”
Although the final numbers weren’t ideal, the Dukes began their conference schedule 4-1 last season.
Wellington returns four letter winners: Sparks, Lehmkuhl, junior Hope Diermyer, and sophomore Erin Frenk. Sparks and Diermyer will serve as team captains.
Defensively, the Dukes tend to lean toward zone looks because of their height, said the coach.
“That size and length helps us,” Morris said. “It’s zone heavy but we will switch it up from time to time.”
He pointed out the size of Lehmkuhl and others, including 6-foot freshman Jalen Gibbs, also helping on the offensive end, but conceded that a young team still needs time to find its way.
“We have long arms and skill at key places and we’re ready to keep moving forward,” he said.
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.