Lady Viks make preseason strides


"I’m right there beside them fighting with them” coach Ashlee Cole

Harrisburg d Siuslaw: 52-33

Sweet Home d Siuslaw: 60-55

South Eugene d Siuslaw: 26-59

Dec. 18, 2019 — Six games into the season, the Lady Viks are still searching for their first win of the season after a tough weekend at the Les Schwab Eagle Booster Club Invitational. But while the scores reflect a rocky start to the season, the attitude and chemistry of the team is at an all-time high.

“They’re doing good,” coach Ashlee Cole said. “It’s tough losing, but I just keep telling them — This isn’t the team from years past. This is a different team. We have better chemistry, we’re more comfortable and we’re having a lot more fun. They just need to figure out how to get everybody to click and once we do that, we’re going to win some games.”

The teams that Siuslaw played over the weekend ranged from a 6A varsity team with South Eugene to a near win against Sweet Home, which is enjoying a 4-1 season. While the Viks may have lost, they gained some valuable experience.

“Just getting the different feel for different teams and what they’re going to do is great,” Cole said. “It’s good to expand on who we’re going to play and see the different styles of teams.”

And the girls aren’t getting discouraged. Cole points to last Tuesday’s game against Sutherlin, where they lost by a whopping 35 points.

“I was so excited because we were down 64-29 with five seconds left in the game,” she said. “The girls still weren’t giving up. There’s no quit in them, which is great to see, especially after the last couple of seasons. They’re still fighting to win.”

The fight continued on Thursday night against Harrisburg, where they made a strong showing in the first half of the game.

But then foul trouble hit senior post Mia Collins, who got four fouls right away.

“I put Mia back in and within eight seconds, she fouled out,” Cole said.

But that was a rare moment for the Viks, who began the season with a host of noticeable foul issues. Since then, they team has been working on it.

“I think we’ve figured out how to be aggressive without fouling as much,” Cole said. “Besides Thursday’s game with Mia, we’ve averaged only about three fouls. They’ve gone down a lot, we’re not losing any aggressiveness — we’re just playing smart, which is good.”

The real problem on Thursday was turnovers, which totaled 29 for the night.

“That’s our biggest thing right now, and that’s what happened in all of our games,” Cole said. “We need to work on passing more in practice. That comes on me and trying to find time for it. I want to work on plays, but there’s other things to work on.”

Going into Friday night against Sweet Home, Cole stressed the turnover issue.

“That’s what they focused on,” she said, reporting that the team only got 16 turnovers that night. It was also the closest game of the season, losing by only five points.

“Limiting turnovers is what’s going to keep us in the game,” she said. “If we can do that, we’ll be successful. Friday night proved that. We almost got that game.”

It was close throughout, and for the most part of the game, the Viks were in the lead.

“But then we started freaking out with the ball a bit, turn the ball over late in the game,” Cole said. “We were down by three with a couple of seconds to go. They were trying to cook the clock, so we were fouling — and they made their free throw shots.”

Free throws were the Viks challenge on Friday, missing nine against Sweet Home.

“I told them at the beginning of the season that free throws were going to win us games, and that’s what lost this one for us,” said Cole. “We missed nine and it was a five-point game. So, that was tough.

“But they learned from that.”

The Viks took the lessons of the free throws to heart on Saturday, where they only missed a few against South Eugene. While the team they played was JV, it was from a 6A school and “they didn’t even look like a JV team, they looked like varsity,” Cole said.

The problem seesawed back to turnovers on Saturday, with the Viks again losing control of the ball 29 times and eventually losing by 33.

Looking back at the first two weeks of play, Cole sees a potential for the Viks that she hasn’t seen before. First of all, everyone is scoring. Instead of relying on just a few players to make baskets, every game seems to have a different high scorer — Gracie Fruedenthal drained 12 points against Newport, and Break Blankenship had 10 against Sutherlin.

“Savannah Morris was a lead scorer, Mia Collins had 15 against Sweet Home and Kelsey Larson is getting there. We’re getting to the point where almost everyone out there is getting comfortable with the ball.”

They just need to work on their fundamentals and making everything click.

“It’s not our chemistry, they all play really well together,” Cole said. “We just need to pass the ball more and shoot more in practice. We need to change up a few plays and get our shots to drop. We’re getting them up, we’re just having a really hard time getting them to drop.”

While the losses the Viks have seen so far this season have been tough, Cole knows that they’ll get the win they’re looking for.

“We’re almost there,” she said. “Their heads aren’t down. They’re still up, they’re still trying to fight for a win. I’m right there beside them fighting with them.”

Tonight, Siuslaw will play at Stayton High School beginning at 5:30 p.m. Friday, the Viks will play the Lancers at South Umpqua, beginning at 6 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on KCST Radio 106.9 FM, beginning with the Lady Viks at 5:15 p.m. (Stayton) and 5:45 p.m. (South Umpqua).

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