It’s hard to top a perfect 22-0 regular season but with three returning starters and several talented newcomers the Kirtland Hornets have the potential to defend their league title and more.
Success starts with the mental game as the Hornets have to believe they can win without Sydney Snyder, who graduated last spring after a remarkable four-year career.
“We’ve got five of our top eight returning,” Kirtland coach Bob Bell said. “I really believe Lauren Snyder, Julia Camino, Amber Yurick, Jenna Sayle and Lauren Lutz, if they all pick up their game the way I think they can, I think we can make up for the loss of Sydney and Katie McCollister, our point guard.”
Sydney Snyder averaged over 21 points per game and led the Hornets in nearly every statistical category.
The Hornets don’t have a player on the roster who can fill those shoes but they do have a team-centered approach that can mitigate the loss.
“The philosophy we’re going on is we can’t sit around and say nobody can do what Sydney can do, but I don’t think they’ll do that,” Bell said. “They want to show what they can do.”
Kirtland’s returning five has the talent and potential but it may take a little time for the Hornets to jell as three of those players helped lead Kirtland’s soccer team back to the state championship game last Friday.
“We’re excited for the season but three of those starters have yet to pick up a basketball because of soccer,” Bell said. “They may be out a week or two yet.”
Leading the way for the Hornets is Sayle, a 5-foot-10 senior forward. She averaged 11 points and 6.7 rebounds per game last season. Lauren Snyder, a 5-foot-7 point guard, averaged 6.3 points per contest and Lutz, a senior post, averaged 4.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last winter.
Yurick, a 5-foot-6 sophomore small forward, was the team’s fourth-leading scorer with 5.9 ppg.
“We have experience and balance,” Bell said. “You’re looking at a point guard, a wing and post players and then you start to add in Julia Camino, Grace Wolfe and the two freshmen guards and that gives us not just good balance, but good flexibility where we can run people in and out and not feel like we lost anything in the process.”
Camino is a 5-foot-7 junior guard who will spell Snyder at the point at times.
Wolfe is a 5-foot-11 freshman post that will team up with Sayle and Lutz to help the Hornets control the glass. Senior Brandi Martz, a 5-foot-9 post, also will see some time and add length in the paint for the Hornets.
Kirtland added two other talented freshmen in guards Reilly Greenlee and Macy McIntosh.
Greenlee, who stands 5-foot-6, can play either guard position and McIntosh (5-4) is a quick lefty who plays an aggressive brand of basketball perfectly suited for the Kirtland attacking defense.
“Julia and Lauren will most likely start at the one and the two and depending on how we do the JV quarters the two freshmen guards will definitely fit into the rotation,” Bell said. “I’d love to rotate three guards into two positions. That way we’ll always have somebody sitting out resting and watching with two fresh bodies on the court.”
Kirtland opens the season against Chardon as part of the Ohio Varsity Tip-Off Classic at Ursuline College on Nov. 24.
That is just one game against bigger schools the Hornets will play in the brutal front end of their schedule. Kirtland also has games scheduled at Perry and Willoughby South before opening league play at Berkshire.
“First, we have to get healthy and get those (soccer) girls back hopefully by the time we play Chardon,” Bell said. “We don’t have much time. No matter how you cut it, we’re going to be late compared to a lot of teams as far as preparation. Nothing we can do about that. You have to be happy for the soccer team going so deep in the playoffs. Our boys’ team has been doing that for a long tie due to the success of the football team. We could be as good as last year overall and really struggle those first few games.”