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By Ric Webb
It hasn’t been easy going for the Exeter High School girls’ basketball team over the past several seasons. In fact, they have not won more than four games in one season in the past six years. The goal now is to turn things around and make this a winning program.
The first step was the hiring of a new coach, Ted Snyder. He coached the Owen J. Roberts High School boys’ basketball team for 20 years. In those 20 years he won over 250 games, got his team into the PAC-10 Final Four eight times, and in the championship game three times with one league title. His team also had one District 1-AAA runner-up finish, and made two appearances in the district semifinals and one appearance in the state tournament.
Of course coaching a boys’ team is a little different than coaching a girls’ team, but Coach Snyder is anxious for the challenge.
“For me personally, I’m excited to be coaching girls,” said Coach Snyder. “After 20 years with the boys, It’s been fun to mesh some of my old philosophies, with some of the new ideas that I think are better suited for the girls’ game.
So far there has been a ray of hope this season. The Lady Eagles have lost both of their Berks League games, but have three non-league wins under their belt. Considering the team has only one four games in one season once in the last six years, it’s not a bad start.
“I’ve been impressed with the eagerness and enthusiasm that the girls have displayed on a daily basis,” said Snyder. “We have a lot of young kids that work hard, and I have been excited to see their growth in a short period of time.”
There is no doubt about the fact that this is a very young team this year. Gabby Pochron is the only senior on the team so a lot of the leadership responsibilities will land on her. But there is still plenty of other talent who will help her out.
Jennifer Eck is a sophomore guard who’s 97 points so far this season leads the team. She’s averaging 10.8 points a game, right about the level she was at last year when she led the team in scoring as a freshman.
“Jen has a good mid-range jumper,” said Coach Snyder. “Though she’s more of a traditional two-guard, Jen is also able to handle the ball and will be counted on to play some at point this year. Jen is a hard worker who wants to get better every day. We’ve already seen great improvement in her decision making with the basketball, as well as trying to develop some skills in the low post.”
Sara Wesley is also a sophomore at the forward position. She is second on the team in scoring with 60 points (12.0 points per game). It’s a good start for someone who is playing her first season as a varsity player.
“She is our tallest and most athletic player,” said Snyder. “She’s an all-state volleyball player who is working hard to make the transition back to the hardwood. We’ll count on her for a great deal of scoring and rebounding. Sara has shown an ability to pick things up quickly. If she can develop a go-to move on the block, she’ll become a bona fide inside presence in this league.”
The Lady Eagles began the season by finishing third in the Tulpehocken Tip-Off Tournament. In the opening game they fought back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit against Conrad Weiser, but fell short of the win. Still, with coming back the next night to win the consolation game, it’s wasn’t a bad start for a team trying to build a program.
For the most part, the Exeter girls’ have been in their games. Even if they haven’t pulled out a win, they are making the other team work for their wins. Three of their six losses have been two-point affairs. A bucket here or a bucke there and they could have a winning record.
One of the reason’s the team is playing better this year is team chemistry. Coach Snyder likes what he sees in that department.
“They are a group of kids that work hard, but more importantly support one another,” said Snyder. “Obviously there has been a great deal of change that they have had to adapt to, and their trust is one another is a major reason why they have been able to make the transition seamlessly. They’re genuinely nice kids who truly want to help one another.”
Nobody expects this team to win a league, or even a division title. Since the Eagles are in the very tough Division 1 of the Berks League, they are not ready to challenge for a division championship. They have a lot of learning and maturing to do first.
Not only are they a young team that needs experience in varsity basketball, they have a new coach with a new system. Although they seem to be picking it up very quickly, there will be an adjustment period for the girls.
“They’ve been very receptive (to his new system) and I’ve already seen great strides. I’ve also tried to adapt my system and style to them in situations that I think will benefit them. I continue to be impressed with their positive attitude and desire to learn and improve.”
The goal this season is a simple one - just continue to get better as the season wears on. Of course they would like to see their hard work pay off with some victories. Even three or four more wins would go a long way for the team’s confidence heading into next season.
What Coach Snyder expects of each of his players is that they give it their all in every game. That’s the only way they are going to get off the mat and turn the program around. This year is a transition year. The Lady Eagles are hoping that they are transitioning into a winning team and getting back to challenging for the division championship.
The first step has been made.