Missing was the established trust that came along with Ted Anderson coaching the Valley Center girls' basketball team for so many years.
This off-season was telling for the Hornets, now under the control of Daniel Smith, who replaces Anderson after he left to become an assistant on Andale's boys team. Rather than wait for the transition, the incumbent seniors built their own bond — from freshmen on up.
"We just tried to make them feel like they're part of the team," said Carson Cruce, one of three seniors. "We're all a team. It's not just seniors or freshmen, we just try to relate to them. Age doesn't matter. We're all just one team."
That makes Smith's job, his first coaching girls, easier.
"I couldn't ask for a better group of girls to lead this team," he said. "From the very beginning these girls had a vision of what they wanted their team to be."
After seven years of experience coaching boys, Smith doesn't plan on altering his philosophy in coaching.
"I still think you do the same things," Smith said. "Basketball is still basketball, in terms of how you play it and how you score it. The things I care about haven't changed — working hard every day, playing tough defense."
Early on, responsibilities will default to this senior class — Cruce, Cassy Mayber and Karlee Wedekind. Defense will be emphasized, bringing on Bethany McCormick and Karlee Cannady, and offense will be worried about later.
It's hard to peg where Valley Center, which opens the season Dec. 8 at Maize, will be this season, but it will likely come down to those seniors.
"We feel like it's our job to show everybody the right way to go," Mayber said. "We just hope they follow us."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
PLAYERS TO WATCH
But Flory knows scoring isn’t the focus entering the season. “If we are going to be a good team, we will have to become a tough defensive and rebounding team,” he said.