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Lady Redhawks hit reset with new athletes, new coach

November 16, 2018
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

2017 Record: 2-20 (L in Regionals to Gladbrook-Reinbeck)

Head Coach: Shawn Larmore

The North Tama girls basketball program has gone through a number of coaches over the past several seasons, leading to inconsistent results and low turnout for the sport. Shawn Larmore is hoping to change all of that at the helm of the program and supported by a score of athletes who hadn't played in previous years.

Article Photos

From left to right: Front row-Jordan Rigel, Molly Kvidera, Carissa Calderwood, Takoa Kopriva, Katelyn Kucera, Sabryna Rigel. Back row-Katie Kopriva, Abby DeBoef, Carlie Gorder, Karly Jans, Hope Brubaker, Madeline Espenscheid, Rylee McLean.

"I saw the potential many of these athletes have here at North Tama from watching our volleyball team," Larmore said. "I wanted to get those athletes out for basketball and knew they hadn't over the last two years. This potentially can bring girls basketball here a lot of success. There's been a new coach each of the last three years, so we need to get stability and to get some youth programs going soon."

Volleyball standouts Katie Kopriva, Karly Jans and Carlie Gorder will join a team that returns 75 percent of its scoring and 72 percent of its rebounding from last year's squad. The Lady Redhawks will be without last season's second leading scorer in Olivia Schrier (6.0 ppg) and Shelby McKinley as they have graduated, but returning athletes have committed themselves to moving forward after winning two games in their 2017-18 campaign.

"We had open gyms over the summer on Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus open gyms this fall for basketball," Larmore said. "I've seen a lot of improvement from over the summer to this first full week of practice. We are a bit rusty, but I've seen improvement in shooting and ball handling. After the first few weeks back, we should have a successful season." At point for the North Tama offense is Takoa Kopriva, an Honorable Mention in the Iowa State Conference South Division last season after leading the Redhawks with 9.7 ppg and 2.3 steals a contest. Reflective of her team overall, Kopriva struggled shooting from the field (27.8 percent individually, 25 percent team), Larmore hopes to cement a strong offense with the junior both on and off the ball.

"Takoa was the point guard last year, however, we will play her in a couple of different positions this season," Larmore said. "I'd like to see her step up and be a leader. I don't want to put a lot of scoring on her shoulders because we have the potential to have a different girl stepping up on any given night in that category. I see Carissa Calderwood bringing up the ball up, but also Katelyn Kucera, Karly Jans, Molly Kvidera and Katie Kopriva being capable and playmaking."

Senior Hope Brubaker returns as a likely starter after posting averages of 4.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and one block over the course of last season. An a fan of the sport, Brubaker hopes to provide leadership and toughness in her final season in a Redhawk jersey with a larger varsity roster behind her.

"Last season was tough because I feel we didn't have enough girls out who wanted to compete," Brubaker said. "This year, there's a good turnout and lots of girls committed. I believe we have 24 girls freshman through seniors to make this a great season."

Manning the post again in 2018 will be sophomore Rylee McLean and senior Madeline Espenscheid, the two combining for 5.3 ppg and 11.1 rpg last season. In addition, the Lady Redhawks will have Jans back in the lineup after a year away for the court, last posting averages of 7.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg and 1.9 steals a game.

"For the most part, you're going to see anyone step up on any day," Larmore said. "Karly Jans will take a big offensive load, even though she wasn't out last year. We will have Rylee McLean and Madeline down low to contribute. With our hope to press more this season, I hope it can lead to more layups for easy points."

Larmore will look to returning vets such as Calderwood, Kvidera, Kucera and newcomer Katie Kopriva to help on both ends of the floor and restore a sense of style to team plagued by bad shots and turnovers in the previous season. Taking advantage of the athleticism the squad now possesses, Larmore will implement pressure defense to create havoc and cough up the ball for easier scoring opportunities.

"We might not be basketball players, but we're going to be athletes," Larmore said. "We're going to get up and down the court, be in your face defensively and hopefully cause turnovers to get to the hoop for easy layups. If we can get into basketball shape with their conditioning, we can do a lot of full-court pressing and even go deep into our bench."

But the athletes also have their own goals after a lackluster 2017 season. Kvidera hopes to improve on her averages in her senior year and be more of a presence than in her past three years playing for North Tama.

'I want to improve my free throw percentage to over 50, closer to 60," Kvidera said. "I'd like to shoot a lot more threes and score more in general because I didn't shoot enough last year. I want to go out with an overall better season. Hopefully we can have a winning season."

Brubaker agrees with her fellow senior's sentiments exactly as she looks to improve not only herself but the team overall.

"We know the girls from volleyball could have good ball handling skills, so I want to see us improve in the post, all-around shooting," Brubaker said. "Personally, I want to improve on my rebounding skills. Shooting wise, I need to move my range out of the 15 foot to farther out. It's my senior year, so I want to enjoy the sport with my friends."

Larmore will expect much more from his five seniors and his upperclassmen in all areas, including ball-handling, shooting and playmaking after each element was lacking last season. Brubaker is no exception in his mind even recovering from a recent left hand injury.

"Hope had a pretty decent year last season and I expect big things out of her this year too," Larmore said. "She's a vocal leader and leads by example too. Hopefully they younger kids will see that and follow Hope during her successful senior season. She's been going through drills and will be ready for us."

The first-year coach will also look to Abby DeBoef and McLean as sophomores this season, along with freshman Mya Sierra and Jules Breakenridge after strong summers committed to improvement in the gym.

"We want to see who's banging on a nightly basis and hope to give them the ball," Larmore said. "Everyone is kinda playing every position, with the exception of the post. If we have a mismatch, we'll throw someone down into the post and go from there. We have a lot back, but we also picked up five girls who haven't played in the last two years. "It's exciting because we can go 10 deep and really compete in practice. They will make each other better."

"There's a lot of leadership on this team and we generally get along with each other," Brubaker adds. "I feel leadership wouldn't be something that's not present this season. We don't know who we are as a team this season, but we have so many people out is a strength."

The Iowa Star Conference could prove to be a challenge for the Lady Redhawks and the non-conference will not be any easier to make 2018 a winning season.

"We have a lot of people out this year and it makes practice stronger to have so many people to compete against," Kvidera said. "Our competition this season will be Colo-Nesco, Meskwaki in the south part of our conference. Janesville is always athletic too."

"We got a great group of girls competing hard in practice, so I'm excited to see what they do against BGM," Larmore said. "We want to figure out how roles will shake up through this game, who can really score for us and who can defend. Our goal is to get better each and every time we get on the court. We have some of our offense in we will need for this game, but we have a long way to go over the season."

The Lady Redhawks will open their 2018 campaign on Monday, Nov. 19 as they host the Jesup J-Hawks in Traer at 6:30 p.m. for varsity.



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