BLUE ASH – Ursuline Academy’s 10-4 start to the season defied head coach Keith Starks’ expectations.
“If you had told me at the beginning of the year that we were going to be 10-4 right now, I would have said ‘you’re crazy,’ ” he said. “Same thing if you would have told me that we were going to be 9-2 at the end of 2014.”
The Lions built that record even while playing in the Girls Greater Catholic League where both McAuley and Mount Notre Dame are undefeated in league play this season. Ursuline sits in third with two losses and needs some help if it’s to obtain a conference crown.
“It is tough game-in and game-out and it doesn’t matter who we play,” Starks said. “There are teams in our league that are down this year, but they are still better than teams in other leagues. You have to come play.”
He has structured practice differently by having his team run more in an effort to wear opponents down. He has also emphasized defensive intensity because the team isn’t especially potent on the offensive end.
The players appear to have bought in to that style of play.
“We need to keep our heads up and make sure we play together,” senior guard Ali Schirmer said. “Team chemistry is very important and we have to do our best to improve defensively and offensively.”
The Lions were in the thick of perhaps the toughest portion of their schedule following back-to-back losses to Springboro and the Mohawks, before winning against Seton Jan. 8.
However, a tough schedule will prepare them for tough games down the road.
“I think our conference is one of the hardest in the state,” senior guard Megan Oglibee said. “We have a lot of tough competition against a lot of smart girls, but that will help us win later in the season.”
Winning games later in the season is exactly what the Lions want to do. Starks believes that this team has the ability to do something no other team at Ursuline has done before.
“If we play the way I think we can play, I think we can win a district championship,” he said. “No other team here at Ursuline has played in regional semifinal or final. With the parity in today’s high school girls’ basketball, I think its feasible for us to do that. We can rewrite the record book in terms of the basketball program.”