Thursday, January 12, 2006

Season overview from the Times-Courier

Tom Flanagan is out with his article in the Times-Courier and it treats us pretty decently. He discusses the challenges of a small school and talks about the advantages of being part of the Worcester County Athletic Conference. While it is fair to our program, it seems inconsistent with his views on North Central in the earlier piece. To be fair, that was a column and this is a news piece, but he approached the ability (or inability) for a small school to compete from an entirely different place in the earlier article.

I also thought the article was a little too much about me and my coaching experience, etc. and not enough about the players, but it's not unusual for a writer to take that tack in discussing a team with a losing record. Oh, and I'm mortified that he quoted me using a dangling participle. If ever there were a time when I should have been misquoted...

SLA girls begin new Crusade
By Tom Flanagan / Staff writer
Thursday, January 12, 2006

LANCASTER -- Sometimes high school sports are like fashion trends.

Whether it's bell-bottom pants or a successful basketball program, things tend to go in cycles.

The South Lancaster Academy girls' basketball team is in a rebuilding mode for this season, but it's not all bad news for the Crusaders.

After qualifying for the Central Mass. Division 3 tournament in each of the last two seasons, the Crusaders have limped to an 0-8 start. Slow starts can be expected when you lose several seniors, including three of whom were among the leading scores in the history of the program.

"With a school with such a small enrollment, you're going to cycle quite a bit," said Crusaders' coach Lance Harris. "It's definitely a learning process, because there are times when we have four or five girls on the court who have never played before, or are adjusting to new positions."

Harris is no stranger to the ups and downs of coaching at a small school.

He was the coach in 1991 when SLA played its first season as an official member of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. After a few seasons, Harris moved down the street a few yards to coach at Atlantic Union College before returning to the Crusaders' girls' program.

"I'm really thankful that I have the opportunity to coach here," said Harris, a 1988 graduate of SLA. "It gives me the opportunity to feel like I'm giving back to a school that [I] love and care so deeply for."

The Crusaders will be rebuilding in a slightly different manner than in years past.

This season is the school's first in a league. SLA joined the newly-formed Worcester County Athletic Conference, and will play its first league home game on Saturday night against Bethany Christian at 6:30.

"I think that playing in a league will enable us to improve as a team because we'll be matched up with schools that have a similar enrollment and are in similar stages with their programs," Harris said.

"It will be nice for the kids to have some type of regular set of opponents each year, rather than having to shop around and find schools to play."

After opening the season with six games against tough competition from the Mid-Wach D Conference and perennial postseason participant Monty Tech, SLA faced
University Park Campus School in its inaugural WCAC game Monday and lost, 40-25, but Harris and his team were not discouraged.

"I think we're already playing well defensively," Harris said. "We've been able to hold our opponents to 40 points or less on a consistent basis. Over the second half of the season, I'd like to see our offense improve and I think we'll be able to do that."

Despite not having the numbers to field a junior varsity team this season, Harris isn't concerned that on-the-court growing pains will stunt the overall growth of his program.

"We have the type of kids who are willing to fight through the tough times in a season," Harris said. "Before our team reached the playoffs two consecutive seasons, we were 1-17 the previous year. I think something like that is a motivator to these kids. Things can turn around in a hurry."

As a point of fact, the 1-17 season was two years before our first trip to the playoffs, but I believe I gave Tom that information in the midst of one of the long-winded answers I was lamenting in yesterday's post.
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