BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – Everybody likes a little intrigue. Forget variety. Interesting mystery is the spice of life.
We all know that the Elco girls’ basketball team is going to be good this year. What’s intriguing is just how good the Raiders will be.
There’s plenty of room on the Raider bandwagon! Climb aboard.
Last year, injuries ravaged the Raiders and turned a promising campaign sour. Elco never fully recovered from then-senior Alexis Thomas’ preseason knee injury and the loss of athletic Ryelle Shuey early in the year.
But Shuey, now a junior, is back and appears to be completely healthy. And she will be surrounded by a solid nucleus that struggled last season, but really grew up in her absence.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been as excited about a group as I am about this one,” said Elco head coach Ashil Shay. “Their athleticism is through the roof. A lot of them have been in the weight room all summer. We never had less than 15 kids at an open gym. Our expectations are very high, just based on our athleticism.
“When those juniors were freshmen, we found a lot of success,” Shay added. “We were one game away from qualifying for states. We want to build upon that season. Things happen. Seasons come and go, and sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to. But this year we want to compete every single night.”
Elco may want to build upon its 2015-16 campaign, but it wants to forget about last season. Many times under-manned and with players playing out of position, the Raiders limped to an 8-13 finish.
But in some ways, Elco may be able to draw from that adversity.
“That’s gone,” said Shay, herself a former Raider performer. “You can’t live in the past. You certainly can’t be afraid to get hurt. You’ve got to go out there and compete. We want to live in the present.
“One of the big things last year was injuries,” added Shay. “We lost two really key players to serious injuries. When you lose two key players, you have to adjust, and then we had even more injuries. It seemed like things piled up. We tried to compete the best we could.”
All of the Raiders’ hopes revolve around Shuey, a Division One athlete who has committed to playing soccer in college. The 6-0 forward will front Elco’s solid starting five that also features 5-11 senior forward Jalissa Nolt, 5-9 senior forward Emily Bidelspach, 5-5 junior guard Julia Nelson and 5-7 junior guard Jordan Rosengrant.
“I like our size,” said Shay. “We’re long. We’re fast. We’re physical. And they’re competitive. I also like their intensity level. They just keep getting better. That’s all you can ask for. We just want to keep working on the fundamentals, and hopefully put it all together.
“The biggest thing is we want to make sure we’re solid in the effort department,” Shay continued. “We want to out rebound every team we play. The little things you can control. Those are all places we have made our priority.”
Elco is also in the process of developing its depth. The Raiders bench will boast potential, but not a lot of height.
Kayla Gerber and Maddy Weit are each 5-6 junior guards. Kyle Stine and Olivia Balsbaugh are sophomore guards. And Katelyin Rueppel and Amanda Smith are both freshmen.
“Obviously we want to improve,” said Shay. “We taught a lot in the first week of practice. We had a lot to put in. Two of the things we’ve been emphasizing are taking care of the ball and boxing out. Right now our focus is tightening up the little things, the effort things.
“I’m very pleased with where we are,” continued Shay. “We have everybody healthy and we look pretty good out there.”
Elco’s length and athleticism will serve it well all over the floor, but especially on the defensive end.
“We want to be able to put some pressure on the ball and get into passing lanes,” said Shay. “We want to use our length to cause some confusion for other teams. I think we’re a little more versatile. But we feel like we have to get it done on the defensive end of the floor.”
Elco will open its 2017-18 slate on Friday, December 8th at the Middletown Tip-off tournament.
“Every year is different,” said Shay. “So far this year, everything’s been great. I feel great about where we’re headed. They’re awesome kids. They like each other. They’re friends.
“I’m happy, yes,” continued Shay. “But I’m not satisfied. You can always get better, in every aspect. But I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids. There’s something about this combination. This group, there’s something special about them. It’s our job as coaches to get it out of them.”
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2017-18 Elco Girls’ Basketball Schedule
Date/Time Opponent Location
Wed Nov 29
5:30PMRed Land Senior High SchoolRed Land Senior High School
GymSTue Dec 5
6:00PMTwin Valley High SchoolEastern Lebanon Co Sr High School
GymSFri Dec 8
TBAMiddletown Area High SchoolMiddletown Area High School
GymTSat Dec 9
TBAMiddletown Area High SchoolMiddletown Area High School
GymTTue Dec 12
7:30PMManheim Central School DistrictEastern Lebanon Co Sr High School
GymNWed Dec 13
7:30PMFleetwood Senior High SchoolFleetwood Senior High School Stadium
GymNFri Dec 15
7:30PMLancaster Catholic High SchoolLancaster Catholic High School
Berger GymLMon Dec 18
7:30PMLancaster Mennonite SchoolEastern Lebanon Co Sr High School
GymLWed Dec 20
7:30PMLebanon Catholic SchoolLebanon Catholic High School
GymLFri Dec 22
7:30PMWyomissing Area High SchoolWyomissing Area High School
GymNWed Dec 27
3:00PMNot ListedEastern Lebanon Co Sr High School
TThu Dec 28
TBANot ListedPine Grove Area High School
GymTTue Jan 2
7:30PMAnnville-Cleona High SchoolEastern Lebanon Co Sr High School
GymLFri Jan 5
7:00PMPequea Valley High SchoolPequea Valley High School
PVHS GymLTue Jan 9
7:30PMColumbia High SchoolColumbia High School
High School GymLFri Jan 12
7:30PMNorthern Lebanon HS/MSEastern Lebanon Co Sr High School
GymLTue Jan 16
7:30PMLancaster Catholic High SchoolEastern Lebanon Co Sr High School
GymLWed Jan 17
7:30PMHamburg Area High SchoolEastern Lebanon Co Sr High School
GymNFri Jan 19
7:30PMLancaster Mennonite SchoolLancaster Mennonite High School
Gym B – New GymLTue Jan 23
7:30PMLebanon Catholic SchoolEastern Lebanon Co Sr High School
GymLFri Jan 26
7:30PMAnnville-Cleona High SchoolAnnville-Cleona High School
GymLTue Jan 30
7:30PMPequea Valley High SchoolEastern Lebanon Co Sr High School
GymLFri Feb 2
7:30PMColumbia High SchoolEastern Lebanon Co Sr High School
GymLTue Feb 6
7:30PMNorthern Lebanon HS/MSNorthern Lebanon MS/HS