By Dan Hardenbrook
One quick look at the Lady Indians 2019-2020 season could bring many words to mind. Outnumbered? Outmatched? Young? Inexperienced? But Coach Jim Dzelak had another word that came to mind when I asked him to describe the season in just one word. Adaptability.
“We faced challenges every day in practices and games that forced us to try to adapt to the situation,” Dzelak told me. The coach was quick to point out that the attitude of his team was what he was most proud of this season. He described it as, “Our ability to adapt and improvise throughout the season. Our hard work, effort, and that we never quit.”
There seemed to be a common theme throughout the year for the team. Short numbers were the number one issue. The team would often have only five or six players if someone was injured, sick, or missing. They were even forced to finish with three or four due to foul trouble on some nights. Dzelak said it was a challenge both physically and mentally. Playing shorthanded became “very challenging”. Coach went on to say, “Players had to adapt both mentally and physically in practice and games. They had to be prepared to play 32 minutes a game.”
Despite the difficulties, Coach Dzelak did like a lot of what he saw, especially when it came to the development of both JV and varsity players. “Overall, yes. I was pleased,” he said. Two of the seven full time members of the varsity roster were JV players called up to give the team enough members to play. Freshman Mackenzie Dunbar became a steady option for the girls, especially late in the year after she missed some time due to a concussion. Sophomore April James always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. At different times during the year Dzelak praised his young players for how hard they worked and how coachable they both were. Players like that have Dzelak excited for the future: “I feel good about the direction of the program. We have strong numbers and players developing at the middle school and youth program levels. We have a good core returning next year with varsity experience,” he stated. The team will lean on Katie Rahilly, Jen Dzelak, and Brenna Pavey to provide the senior leadership next season. All three logged big minutes and have played in Dzelak’s system for many years. Bailey Zellar will also be back for her junior year, and will bring a year and a half of experience at the varsity level. Six of the seven from this year will be back, with lone senior Ambriah Ducsay graduating and being the only starter that needs to be replaced.
The coach was clear on his plans for the future and truly believes better days are ahead. “Our shooting all around needs to develop this offseason,” said Dzelak. That will be one of the big goals for the team this summer. But whatever happens, know that Lady Indians will always be ready to adapt.