STRYKER — Numbers are low for Stryker’s girls basketball team, but that doesn’t mean the Panthers will be inexperienced.
Six letterwinners, including one of the top point guards in the area in Sage Woolace, headline the Panthers’ team under second-year coach and former Stryker standout Conner Varner.
“We don’t have a ton of people but the girls coming back, they have experience and they’ve all played well together and kind of know each other,” Varner said. “So expecting us to be able to keep playing, we keep telling them it only takes five players on the court at a time. You don’t need 50 girls to be able to be successful here.”
Stryker finished 8-12 overall and tied for third in the Buckeye Border Conference at 6-6 during the 2020-21 campaign.
For the Panthers, it all starts with Woolace.
The 5-foot-3 junior point guard and four-sport standout earned first-team all-BBC honors and honorable mention all-Northwest District in Division IV as a sophomore. She averaged 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 1.7 assists per game.
“She is definitely a player that we as coaches look to be a leader and the girls look at to answer questions,” Varner said. “She’s somebody we can definitely trust with the ball in her hands and she’s also the person who, a lot of times, guards the other team’s best player. So she’s just a threat on both sides of the floor and just a leader to the team as well.”
Junior guard Alexia Wickerham (5-5) returns after averaging 6.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Marissa Myers (5-9 post) and Haylee Fulk (5-3 guard) are the lone seniors and have experience as well, while juniors Gabrielle Ramon (5-5 forward) and Kaitlyn Myers (5-4 forward) also played key roles.
“We always talk about doing the little things, so whether that’s getting a rebound, boxing out, not giving them second chances and it doesn’t matter how big you are; you can still box someone out and get a rebound and dive on the floor for a loose ball, those little things,” Varner said. “Sometimes the matchups might not look the greatest, but we’ll find a way to get around that and these girls want to work hard.”
Sophomore Emmalee Fulk (5-8 forward) is expected to make an impact as well for Stryker.
The Panthers lost a pair of two-year letterwinners from last year’s team, including all-BBC honorable mention pick Kinsey Myers (4.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists per game).
Staying healthy will be one of the biggest keys to having a successful season, according to Varner.
“We can’t have any bodies going out, and just staying out of foul trouble will be big too with us not having the numbers,” Varner said. “So if we get in foul trouble, then we run out of subs.
“But we’re working hard and just having a good mentality going into this. Luckily it’s a year that’s as normal as it can be and that’s just something that we look forward to playing, just normal this year.”