By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STEPHENS CITY -- Sherando girls basketball coach Kevin Reed has coached some young squads over the years at both Loudoun County and Sherando, but he has never had one quite like this year's team.
"When you talk about what you're expecting out of your youth, this is definitely the youngest team I've ever had with expectations to rely on them," Reed said.
The Warriors have no seniors and only one junior with six sophomores and three freshman.
They lost several key players from last year's team including Morgan Sirbaugh, who set the school record for career points last season.
However, the Warriors return junior Alaina Combs and sophomores Audra Sites, Heidi Brown, Jessica Hakel and Erin Magalis. They also have sophomore point guard Dani Rizzari, who transferred from James Wood.
"I like it," Rizzari said of her new school. "It's different, but in a good way."
Sherando sophomore Madison Grady has moved up from the JV team, and the Warriors have freshmen Lauren Reed, Kevin's daughter, Allison Combs and Madison Lecke.
Reed said with such a young team, he's looking for leadership from everyone.
"We haven't declared captains on this team, and quite honestly we have about seven girls that could easily carry that title," Reed said. "Therefore the whole mix of them, along with what we have -- they're all leaders. A good group of girls that have been waiting for this moment."
Many of the players on the squad have played together since middle school, and some played for Reed on Amateur Athletic Union teams.
Reed said he's also coached some of them on soccer teams through the years, and it's nice to see how well they've bonded together over the years.
"These are the girls that I've watched grow up in the community, play multiple sports together," Reed said. "For this moment, for them to come together -- I'm excited for it. They know me, they know each other. There's a lot of respect and responsibility that comes within the whole."
The fact that the players have played together for several years has helped with team chemistry.
"We all support each other no matter what, just help each other out," Hakel said.
Lauren Reed said the older players have been great working with the freshman, and helping them along in their first year.
"It hasn't been hard, having these guys supporting me and always there for me," Lauren Reed said. "It makes things a lot easier for me."
Being the elder on the team, Alaina Combs said she's trying to help lead the team in any way she can.
"I enjoy [being a leader] because I can help the others out with our system and helping them in knowing what to do," Combs said. "I know that I have to be a leader to the other girls."
For the last two years the Warriors have come up short in the Northwestern District to Group AA powerhouse Millbrook. The Pioneers lost a lot from last year's team, which should make the district wide open.
Kevin Reed said his goals for the team has never changed.
"Our goal every year is to be in championship games, advance past regionals into the state tournament," he said. "That's been my goal since I've been coaching the last eight, nine years. I'm not going to lower those expectations, and the girls aren't going to allow me to."
Sherando has reached the Region II semifinals the last two years and has had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in program history. Kevin Reed said the program is going strong, and this year's team is hungry to add to the program's success.
"A lot has been accomplished in [the last] two years that a lot of people would love to achieve," Kevin Reed said. "But this is about the now, this is about the present. These girls are all young, so they're ready to make their mark. They're ready to set the standard for them."
The players couldn't agree more.
"Expectations are high, very high," Lauren Reed said. "We expect a lot out of this year.
"It's our time."
Contact assistant sports editor Tommy Keeler Jr. at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org