The start of this season could not be more different from last year, Bainbridge High School girls varsity basketball team Head Coach Henry Guterson said.
Last year’s rush is this year’s ready.
Last season’s frantic is this year’s fun.
Last year’s new coach is this year’s returning leader.
And the roster, too, reflects a fresh lineup of eager Bainbridge ballers, all of which combined makes coach and players alike especially psyched for this season.
Stepping back onto the court for his second year at the helm, Guterson said Spartan sports fans had ample reason to be excited too.
“We’re ready, I think,” the coach said.
“This year is very much different just in terms of how prepared we are already. Last year, my first year, I didn’t get the job until two weeks before the season started. We had to put in so many plays, new terminology, and this year’s just been much smoother.”
The team had logged many hours together, Guterson said, even before tryouts — which saw a marked uptick in hopeful hoopsters.
“We had a great turnout,” he said. “We had 27 players turn out. Last year, we had 19. So it was nice to see more players.”
The chosen have since been putting in time on the court together.
“We played summer ball. We played fall ball. We got to put in plays and learn how to play together as a team and learn each other’s habits and it’s been really beneficial,” Guterson said. “It makes a lot of difference.”
Experienced as they are, this year’s Spartan lineup is still quite young overall. The squad boasts just three seniors: Olivia Ditmore, Amy Bourmatnov and cocaptain Morgan Lassoff.
Junior returner Grace Carson is the second captain.
Of the senior players, Guterson has very specific expectations — which, he said, the team’s leading ladies are already meeting.
“If I could put it into three words it would be ‘Serve the team,’” he said. “Put the team first. I met with them, just me and them two, and we’re going to meet again at least once or twice more this season and really talk about how they can best serve the team.
“Keep things positive. When we have lows, try to bring us back up. Be vocal leaders lead by example, in terms of giving it your whole effort in practice and games, giving it your all.”
Additionally, the team boasts several other upperclassmen: junior Malia Peato and sophomores Kendall Havill, Ellie Woolever, Lea Wolf and Paige Aichele.
One freshman is also among the varsity players: Anna Kozlosky.
“She’ll be our one freshman this year; last year, we had three freshman [on varsity],” Guterson said. “She’s great. She’s learning the plays really well and working hard. She’s overcoming an ankle sprain that she had this fall and she’s starting to look good. This summer she looked great.”
Guterson said the Metro is a hard beast to nail down, and though powerhouse programs tend to be contenders every year, making predictions can be problematic.
“Metro is a really interesting league,” he explained.
“It’s not like playing over here where you know what to expect. When you play North Kitsap and Port Angeles and Olympic, the last year’s players move up one year at time and you know what to expect. In the Metro League, there’s so many transfers and there’s so many incoming freshmen who are really good that it’s really hard to know what to expect before you’ve seen them play.
“It’s just a totally different deal than playing over here in terms of being able to predict how the league is going to shake out.”
The man knows of what he speaks.
A former Bainbridge baller himself, a Class of 2003 grad, Guterson has since spent several seasons at the helm on the boys’ side of the sport. First he was the boys C team coach (2006-2008) and then he was head coach of the boys JV team for the past five years.
“I think we have a great chance at beating anybody in the league,” he said. “We have our nine keys to success, and one of them is we’ve got to go into every game expecting to win and compete, and never expecting just to roll over anybody else.
“We can beat anybody on any given night, and we can lose to anybody on any given night and we’ve got to mentally approach every game the same.”
Expected to do especially well this year are West Seattle, Seattle Preparatory, Rainier Beach and Bishop Blanchet, Guterson said.
And Bainbridge, of course.
In fact, the Spartans are already showing areas of serious strength, the coach said.
“We’re a great shooting team. A lot of our players can shoot,” he said. “We’re fast. We’re quick. We executive really well.
“We have a good team bonding. We’re really playing together well.”