The best way to explain Oakdale High School girls basketball coach Rob Healy’s feelings on the upcoming season is in one simple word: Excited.
“I told the girls this is the most excited I’ve been for a season,” Healy said before practice last week. “I expect us to play well every night. I’m looking for big things for them.”
And why shouldn’t Healy? Despite playing with a pair of youthful squads in the program’s first two seasons, the Bears won a combined 31 games — they had an 18-5 record two years ago and went 13-11 last season — and this year’s squad contains the one thing the first two did not, namely, a veteran senior class.
“Building a program from scratch is a very unique situation,” Healy said. “The freshmen and sophomores … have had a quality experience at the varsity level for two years. They have a confidence about them. They know the system and they know what to expect, especially for the seniors who are like having assistant coaches on the floor.”
Leading the seasoned group is 6-foot-2 senior center Erica Buls, who averaged 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks per game last winter to earn All-Gazette second team honors. She has received interest from Division I and II colleges, said Healy, who said, “Erica is a dynamic player with height in there who can change things offensively and defensively.”
Seniors Olivia Spahr and Taylor McGaughey rejoin Buls to form a core of players who have played together since the eight grade. Rachel Walling, a guard/forward, also returns for her final campaign.
“Since we did start as a young team, we have gotten a lot better,” Walling said. “We were able to grow and learn with each other. I think that if we try hard and everybody puts forth 100 percent, I believe that we could get far and surprise some other teams. I know as seniors we want the season to end strong.”
Spahr will once again direct the team’s offense from her point guard position after producing solid averages of five points, five rebounds and five assists per game in 2011-12. Healy believes McGaughey, who averaged nine points and three assists a game a year ago from her shooting guard spot, will be the top shooter in the county. McGaughey made 73 3-point shots in her first two seasons.
“I think we can become very successful,” McGaughey said. “We have a lot of good, young athletes who have a lot of energy. We’ve grown over three years. Its been great; it really has. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the girls and we have really good chemistry. I think we’re going to be really good.”
In addition to those veterans, the Bears welcome in a pair of talented freshmen in Cameron Pitts and Emma Bowman and sophomore Natalie Galiviz, who is a scoring threat from all areas of the court. Sophomores Elizabeth Moorman and Christi LaBella return and add quality depth in the post and at point guard, respectively.
“It’s been really fun,” Spahr said. “I hope we can make states.”