GREENVILLE – There were times last year that Riverheads had four freshmen on the floor. The inexperience meant that, sometimes, the Gladiators suffered through rough patches.
But those young players also showed lots of potential and, with a season under their belts, should be improved this year.
“We’re starting the year with more experience than we did last season,” Riverheads coach Tim Morris said. “So that’s always a good thing.”
The team is still young this season with only two seniors — Jennifer Callison and Ashley Shull — on the roster. Morris is expecting those two to not only help on the court, but to provide leadership off the court for the younger players.
Riverheads is behind other area girls’ teams because four of its players were part of the volleyball team that played for a Group 2A state championship two weeks ago.
Callison and Blake Bartley were both on the varsity basketball roster last year, but Cassidey Chrisman, who transferred from Fort Defiance, and Courtney Botkin are both newcomers to varsity.
“It’s a quick learning curve,” Morris said. “But we were so proud of [the volleyball team] for going as far as they went. So, to start the season behind, at least it was for a good reason.”
Botkin is a junior, but after playing jayvee ball two years ago took last basketball season off.
“So far she’s impressed us with her hard work,” Morris said of Botkin.
Chrisman didn’t play basketball last year either, focusing on volleyball and softball at Fort Defiance.
Both players should improve as the season progresses and provide depth for the Gladiators.
There’s also a second transfer, Morgan Bond, who previously played at Rockbridge County. Bond is a junior.
“We think she’s going to be a good player for us,” Morris said. Bond scored 14 points in Riverheads’ season opener Tuesday at Bath County, and added nine in a win over Covington on Wednesday.
Morris called Bond a good all-around player who he expects to help them at several positions.
Along with Bond, the four freshmen from last year will be key to Riverheads’ success this season as sophomores.
“Christa Arehart has really worked on her ballhandling and shooting,” said Morris of his point guard.
Arehart’s quickness is a huge asset. Morris said she’s one of the few players he’s coached that’s has a second gear.
Macey Snyder returns at guard. She led Riverheads with 12 points against Covington.
“She’s gotten a little bit bigger and stronger,” Morris said. “She’s really worked on her game in the offseason.”
Morris called Emma Casto his ‘Miss Utility.'”
“She played about every position for us,” Morris said. “With foul trouble or injuries, it’s good when they can just switch hats and keep playing.”
Bartley is also back. She scored 11 against Covington, the only player besides Snyder in double figures.
“She’s also worked hard on her game,” Morris said. “Hopefully it will show in our play this year how much these girls have worked and improved.”
Five-foot-8 junior Rachel Milo returns in the post.
“We’re hoping as the season goes along she can mature and become a better player for us inside,” Morris said.
Adriana Dunlap played jayvee ball last year and will be counted on for depth as well.
Last year Riverheads didn’t have one standout player and Morris would like to see that kind of balance again this year.
“That’s what we strive for,” Morris said. “The more balanced you are the more successful you can be. People can’t focus on one or two players. We’re hoping that’s a lot of what we’re going to be able to do this year, share that wealth and have a little bit more depth.”
Again, Riverheads will be a team that tries to score in transition and plays tough defense.
“We try to hold opponents down,” Morris said. “Because some nights you’re not going to be the best athletes so we try to dictate tempo.”
•Dec. 11 at Nelson County
•Dec. 18 Bath County
•Dec. 19 Buffalo Gap
•Dec. 22 at East Rockingham
•Dec. 30 Nelson County
•Jan. 2 at Page County
•Jan. 6 Wilson Memorial
•Jan. 9 at Stonewall Jackson
•Jan. 13 at Stuarts Draft
•Jan. 16 Luray
•Jan. 21 at Buffalo Gap
•Jan. 23 East Rockingham
•Jan. 27 Page County
•Jan. 30 at Wilson Memorial
•Feb. 3 Stonewall Jackson
•Feb. 6 Stuarts Draft
•Feb. 10 at Luray