The El Campo Ladybirds basketball team is in full swing following the end of the volleyball season.
With volleyball now over, the Ladybirds now are practicing with their full complement of players. The Ladybirds had one scrimmage, but they won’t play an actual game until next week.
El Campo made it to the second round of the playoffs last year before losing to Fredericksburg who lost in the state championship.
That Ladybirds team finished second in district with 25 wins and nine losses, and had no seniors. This year the Ladybirds will have a seasoned group with seven seniors returning including the district MVP in Jackie Nichols and the offensive MVP in Mya Shorter.
While loaded, the girls will forge on without head coach Gabe Villarreal who did not return, taking another job in the district. Replacing Villarreal is assistant Denise Anderson.
El Campo had a hard time finding a replacement before turning to Anderson, hiring four different coaches who all quit before the season.
“I never intended to be the head coach,” Anderson said. “It does make me sit back and think a little bit about the program and where it’s headed and some positive changes to the program maybe we haven’t been doing before.”
One change has been giving each upperclassman a lowerclassmen to mentor this season, which Anderson hopes will help with team bonding.
The new Ladybird’s coach background is not heavy in basketball. When Anderson was a Ladybird in the early 2000s, she played coach Noma Kremling before getting hurt and finishing her high school career as a softball player.
In the past three seasons, Anderson has been on the bench for varsity games and she’s coached the freshmen teams.
Despite limited varsity basketball knowledge and being coach number five this season, Anderson is enthusiastic about the challenge.
“YouTube has become my best friend,” Anderson joked. “I feel like it’s consumed my life for a little bit. I’m calling friends that coach basketball and picking their brains... I am super excited to see where this season takes us. Once we sync in and become one team, the sky’s the limit.”
Without having a head coach until recently, the girls are behind where they would normally be during practices.
The Ladybirds are focusing on better conditioning along with overall skills. From the start of practice in late October, Anderson noted everyone on the team has cut down their time in the mile by at least a minute.
“Coach (Diana) Matula and I have brought back more conditing for the girls to be more in shape for pressing, man-to-man defense and to be a faster pace team,” Andeson said.