When asked about last year’s 17-win campaign and how Carroll can match or exceed that number this season, Coach Mark Redding says just a single word – finishing.
The Chargers were in a fair amount of games last season in which it lost, letting some get away. Other times, such as against Homestead in the regional, Carroll was able to get good look after good look, but was unable to get buckets on prime chances.
Despite the loss of Olivia Hoeppner (10.5 ppg, 3.3 apg) and Malia Williams (6.6 ppg) to graduation, Redding feels he has a group that is just as talented as last season, especially when factoring in some new talent.
“You cannot replace seniors, particularly their leadership and dedication aspects,” Redding said. “Seniors leave their legacy and hopefully you are able to reorganize and put the next group together with what they left.
“I feel we have the girls to be able to do that.”
That quest begins with senior Emily Parrett, who was Carroll’s leading scorer (11.0 ppg) and rebounder (4.7 rpg) a year ago. A true threat from anywhere on the floor, Parrett shot 38 percent from three a year ago, 49 percent from inside the arc and 77 percent from the free-throw line.
“Her leadership and her basketball IQ are just off the charts,” Redding said. “She is a great leader in that not only is she able to give out constructive criticism, but she also admits her faults. That really commands the respect of her teammates.”
Fellow senior Delane Sheets is primed to have a break-out campaign. The guard was inconsistent as a scorer a season ago, but finished averaging 5.3 points per game while also being an adept passer and rebounder.
Perhaps Sheets’ biggest asset is her defense. She is a rare breed that almost thrives off of physicality instead of shying away from it.
“Delane has been in the shadows for a few years, but she is stepping up,” Redding said. “She sees the court so well and is an excellent passer. She is sometimes too unselfish at times.
“But what I love about her is how hard-nosed she is on defense. When a ball is on the ground, she is going to dive after it without thinking.”
And then there is the youth movement. The sophomore trio of Neveah and Saniya Jackson and Taylor Fordyce are likely to be bigger contributors this season, particularly after the improvements seen in the off-season. All three are more confident and more refined on the floor.
And then there is Kayla Gibbs, another sophomore who got some experience last year. Redding describes her as being “identical to Emily Parrett” in her game, playing hard-nosed defense and always being around the ball. Considering Gibbs and Parrett are cousins, that makes a lot of sense.
The freshman class is also stocked, namely with standout Lexi Castator.
In terms of advantages on the floor this season, Redding believes his team can play with tempo and be lengthy. The Jackson twins are 5-foot-11, Parrett and Sheets are each 5-8 while Castator has proven she can battle inside.
In terms of running tempo, Redding sees a roster that will be more athletic and very unselfish. They all pass the ball extremely well and work hard on defense. No less than eight players are capable of grabbing a rebound or forcing a turnover and running the break to get downcourt.
Carroll has not won less than 10 games in a season under Redding’s guidance, so that is all but assured. But do the Chargers have enough to mix it up with Homestead and South Side in the SAC?
That remains to be seen, but Carroll’s mix of youth and experience is set up to be a dangerous combination.
Even with two of its top players gone from a year ago, the combination of a veteran scorer in Parrett and a lot of potential in the sophomore and freshman classes has Carroll remaining a real threat in the SAC.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
The upper-echelon teams in the league have remained out of reach for the Chargers in recent years, particularly Homestead. Carroll did knock off South Side in convincing fashion a year ago. Can they continue that success over the Archers with some new faces?
Dec. 4 vs. Homestead
No reaching here. Carroll has lost 14 straight games to their rival Spartans, many of them not being close. Everyone is angling to knock Homestead off the top of the perch in the SAC, but for the Chargers it is even more personal with the two being rivals.
This will be Carroll’s second SAC game of the year, with Northrop the opener in November.
Emily Parrett, senior
With a lot of youth around her, Parrett will need to not only continue to lead Carroll offensively, but also be a vocal leader for a group that will surely need guidance at times this year.
Thankfully for the Chargers, Parrett has seemingly taken to the that role already, being a leader on the court and in the locker room.
If Parrett elevates her game to new heights, it will help lead the way for the youth movement and take some of the pressure off of them.
PREVIOUSLY IN THE COUNTDOWN