Brad Odom didn’t return to his roots to take on a rebuilding project, regardless of how others saw it.
West Central graduated five seniors from last year’s 18-6 team, and coach Gina Hierlmeier took the head coaching job at Culver.
Odom, who coached the previous seven seasons at Fountain Central, assumed the job at the school from which he graduated in 1995. He took a collection of players with little-to-no varsity experience, changed their style of play and their philosophy and continued the Trojans’ winning tradition.
“He likes to go a lot quicker than coach Hierlmeier did, and it took time to get used to that,” said junior Alivia Kruger, who leads the team with 9.9 points per game. “Once you got used to it, you really enjoyed the game and really liked getting out and going.”
West Central’s 40-29 victory over Caston on Saturday was the program’s third sectional title in a row and sixth in the last nine seasons.
“With the success that they’ve had here, if I came in and couldn’t keep up with what they’d done, they’ve had a pretty good winning tradition … I think that’s kind of expected,” Odom said.
The situation was almost too perfect.
Odom resigned at Fountain Central and moved back to the area where he grew up when his wife got a new job in Goodland. Odom also wanted to raise his son in a place that had such a positive influence on his life.
There was no intent on becoming the head coach, but the job opened up in the summer and Odom, who was ready to take a break from the rigors of coaching, saw an opportunity to take a young group and push the Trojans to the next level.
So far, it’s worked.
While West Central has had some offensive struggles, seniors Samantha Lincoln and Sarah Becker, juniors Mesha Masters and Kruger, and sophomores Ashton Barkho, Mickayla Wenzel, Hannah Czarnecki, Autumn Wireman and Lexi Foerg have collectively been a group that has caused havoc with an aggressive zone defense.
“We came in and he put a totally new twist on what we were going to play,” Barkho said. “He made us play fast and previously we played slower. Our defense is more aggressive.
“I was nervous, I am not going to lie. And I wasn’t sure how the coach was going to turn out. But he turned everything around and made it work with what we had.”
Now what they have is an opportunity.
Even if the talent isn’t up to par with No. 1 Fort Wayne Canterbury’s, West Central’s players have learned one thing they have going for them.
“We know we are going to be prepared,” Kruger said. “Coach always tells us we’ll be prepared.”