People are excited about basketball season.
For months now, fans, students and parents have come up to Stephen Decatur girls basketball head coach Amy Fenzel-Mergott and told her so.
Expectations are at an all-time high for the girls squad that went 21-4 last season and to the 3A regional final, where the Seahawks fell 67-49.
Decatur returns seven players from last year’s squad, including Bayside South Player of the Year Dayona Godwin.
The junior torched Delmarva for 576 points last season and is feeling the weight of the expectations just like Fenzel-Mergott.
But even with all of the Bayside watching them, Godwin said the Seahawks clicked on the first day of the preseason, picking up right where they left off last year.
“I know we have a big target on our back, but we aren’t really focusing on that,” Godwin said. “We’re just focusing on the big picture and that’s like getting to win the state title — or something like that.”
“She loves passing the ball”
Fenzel-Mergott knows Godwin will be Godwin, but what makes Decatur the deepest team in the Bayside is the return of point guard Jillian Petito, center Marina Jones, forward Payton VanKirk and guard Ally Beck who are all seniors.
Complimenting the starters are fellow senior Blair Yesko and sophomore Lexie VanKirk, along with three freshmen, Amya Mumford, Rebecca Crites and Chole Sass.
Fenzel-Mergott said if there is one thing her squad understands, it’s the concept of working together and not just relying on Godwin. One of the Seahawks’ losses last year proved the theory when Godwin dropped 31 points in 54-49 loss.
“Everybody on this team is going to have a role this year,” Fenzel-Mergott said. “Every person’s role is going to be important for us to be successful. The girls get that, they believe in that and they all understand that every role is essential in our success.”
She added Godwin is excited about her teammates’ growth. Godwin understands it makes the Seahawks harder to beat.
“She loves passing the ball,” Fenzel-Mergott said.
Breaking out of her shell
Godwin and Fenzel-Mergott said Jones is going to be the breakout player this year in the paint.
Jones has improved her jump-shot range and has been really putting in the time to work on the other fundamentals.
Whether it is battling with Pocomoke’s Dynaisha Christian in the post or stopping one of Mardela’s Demyra Selby’s drives, Jones needs to be a rebounding and defending monster for the Seahawks.
Jones said it’s all a mental game of staying focused.
“For me, what gets to me a lot is my nerves,” Jones said. “I look in the crowd at the people, I look at my teammates and they look so calm. For me, as long as I keep myself calm and my confidence up, I know that I could have the potential to be a great asset to the team.”
While the flying and freakishly athletic VanKirk sisters play an important role, as do Beck and Yesko, Fenzel-Mergott said Petito is the most underrated player in the Bayside.
“Having a bunch of girls come back is a huge asset toward our team because we’ve played together all last year, and it’s like a continuation of last year and we’re going to get better and better,” Petito said.
But the reoccurring theme everyone talked about was the fact that it was a team game and not Godwin carrying the load.
Fenzel-Mergott knows if she can get the best out of them, the wins and losses will take its place.
“The girls get this. We can’t take anything for granted,” Fenzel-Mergott said. “It’s a long season so many things can happen. It think that in the Bayside this year, there’s going to be a lot of teams that are going to be good. I feel like this year, we’re going to have a target on our back.
“Every game, people are going to be playing their best to beat us.”
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