By Brian Eller - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Kelly Martin knows her team isn't often going to have the size advantage on the court.
But that doesn't mean she and her teammates can't be more tenacious than their opponent.
"We're not going to be bigger than most teams," Martin said. "We know that, but we hustle as hard as we can and fight for the entire game, and those are two things we can take pride in."
It may be only a month into the season, but so far there's been a lot of things to take pride in for Warren County's girls team. After a dismal 2009 campaign in which the Wildcats failed to win a single game, Martin and Co. exercised their demons earlier this month, beating Madison County 36-18 on the road.
"Oh, that felt so good," Martin said. "We had worked so hard, and it felt great to finally be on the winning side for once."
It was the proverbial 'monkey off their backs' for the Wildcats, and for many of them, it was their first taste of victory in a Warren County uniform. This season, the Wildcats feature one of the youngest squads in the area, with just two seniors and seven girls who are either freshmen or sophomores.
It's a concoction coach John Kelly hopes will pay dividends in a few years, when the young girls are more experienced, but right now, the games aren't without their share of bumps.
"We're still learning, both as a team and as individual players," Kelly said. "The girls are learning what they can do, what they can't do and each game has some rough spots in it. Our job is to make sure with each game there are less of those and we're getting better."
Martin, meanwhile, is a big reason why the Wildcats have already eclipsed their win total from a year ago. In their first meeting with Clarke County, the Wildcats erased an eight-point halftime deficit, as Martin poured in nine points. Then, in the win over the Mountaineers, Martin was part of a defense that allowed just six first-half points and six field goals the entire game.
And while Warren County continually has to overcome its youth issue, the Wildcats often times find themselves out-sized, meaning it's up to Martin and the other guards to protect the ball and find open spaces on the floor. Listed at 5 feet 7 inches, Martin isn't the biggest person on the floor, but she's usually the toughest.
As a junior, Martin is also relied upon for her experience. When her teammates seem to get discouraged on the court, Martin's there to make sure any remorse is short-lived.
"I always try to stay positive and keep my head up," Martin said. "If my teammate's upset, I tell them the same stuff, just try and stay positive, and keep fighting."
That's exactly what Martin does every game. During Warren County's home game against Clarke County, the Wildcats trailed by more than 30 points late in the fourth quarter, but that didn't stop Martin from battling on each possession. On multiple drives, Martin dropped her head and headed for the basket, both times drawing the foul before hoisting up a shot that went in.
It's that tenacity and drive that has Warren County on the rise. This season, the team's first win has them looking toward more the rest of the year. And next season, Martin and the others will be back, ready to take another step forward.