By Pedro Velazco
Northwestern’s girls basketball team ended last season well-positioned to bounce back from a rare losing campaign. A lot of veterans were expected back to a squad that finished 9-11, breaking a string of six straight winning seasons.
Then a wrench was thrown into that scenario as five-year coach Todd Miller decided to step down after five seasons in the program.
Like any good cat though, the Purple Tigers landed on their feet.
Northwestern welcomes former Tri-Central and Western coach Kathie Layden to take over for Miller. Layden guided TC to state titles in 2003, 2004 and 2005. After getting a look at the Tiger program, Layden realized she’d landed on her feet as well.
“I’ve been extremely excited about getting started with these girls,” she said. “I thought we had a good summer and I feel like that’s carried over into the start of our season.
“The girls are working really hard and I know we’re throwing a lot of new things at them. Fundamentally, you can tell they’re well coached. As a coach to come into a new program and have girls that are so fundamentally sound, it’s exciting.”
Back to the program are 5-11 senior post Hannah Treadway (who averaged 7.8 points per game and 6.4 rebounds last season), 5-9 senior post Erin Kesler (3.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg), 5-4 senior point guard Kaitlynd Lear (3.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.2 assists), 5-7 junior guard Olivia McClure (1.3 ppg, 1.2 rpg), 5-8 junior forward Arika Richey, 5-6 junior guard Kelsey Richards, 5-6 sophomore guard Sydney Zeck, 5-8 sophomore guard Sydney Wells, and 5-6 sophomore guard Marie Hunkeler.
In addition, the team gets back 5-7 senior point guard Addison Dubbels, a former starter who missed all of last season due to injury. Dubbels averaged 5.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, 3 assists and 3.4 steals as a sophomore. A new face is 6-0 freshman post Brooke Treadway, who made an instant impact in summer play.
Treadway, Lear, Kesler and McClure each played in every game last season.
Treadway and Kesler are likely to start in the post, but elsewhere Layden wants to see a lot of combinations on the perimeter before settling on a starting five.
Layden is happy about having a squad with eight upperclassmen to guide the team on the floor.
“We’ve got great leadership and to be honest I feel like we have a pretty good balance between different types of players. We’ve got some strength in the post, we’ve got some shooters. Fundamentally our ballhandling is decent. I feel like honestly, we’re excited and ready to start playing some games.”
Layden has the athleticism on the squad to put an emphasis on disruptive defense.
“I’m a big pressure-the-ball and get-out-and-deny-in-the-passing-lanes-type coach so we want to play a lot of man to man and pressure,” she said. “With that being said though, obviously we’re going to try to adjust game by game to see what we need to do. We’ve got quickness, so we want to try to push the ball up the floor and make the other team run with us.”