By Jeremy McDonald
GERVAIS, Ore.– Early in Monday’s practice for the Gervais Cougars, Izzy Boyd was helping out her teammates with the drill they were working on at the moment.
With their five seniors from their 12-0, Cumulative Week Championship squad graduated, the Cougars need some fresh faces to lead the charge. Continuing the momentum, they’ve been in the past few seasons dating back to their final year or two in 3A.
The extra voices and the coaches on the court with the returnees like Boyd will help convey the message that Head Coach Kyle Buse is trying to deliver. Making it easier on the longtime Gervais coach.
“Oh, that makes my job a lot easier,” laughed Buse. “You got Izzy, Mayra (Perez), Ava (Sellers), Josie (Schultz), Sof(ia Contreras). You’ll hear Sofia and you got Olivia (Boyd) growing into her own leadership role. You’re going to have a lot of voices from last year’s team and hopefully that’ll bring out other voices too.
“But definitely their voices are going to be heard and it helps me not to yell so much because I got their voices out here as well.”
As much as last season was nice, Buse is happy to embrace and have the full 24-game season and see how it all unfolds once more with the girls returning to the court this season. Turning to the six returners in the Boyd Sisters, Contreras, Sellers, Schultz and Perez to lead the charge as they did with the senior group to set the tone prior.
Living the ideal situation of filling in experience with experience.
“We got six returners who are using (last year) as motivation to do it again. We can’t duplicate it; one we don’t want to duplicate Covid-season again. We want to embrace the full 24-game season and see what the State Playoffs look like,” Buse said. “Maybe duplicating some of the feelings, it’ll be close, but this is a new season. We graduated the five and are looking to revamp and come back at it.”
In a league in which Salem Academy wants revenge for the two games last season and a scrappy Tri-River Conference with teams hoping to catch the top dogs sleeping on any given night, it’s going to be important not to get caught up with just those big time games in between.
And it goes back to something Buse has taught his teams through the years: Focus one-day-at-a-time.
“It’s just something that we’ve taught over the years. We don’t underestimate any opponent, we set those expectations from the get-go,” starts Buse. “If we start doing that, say focusing on say Salem Academy for example, we’re going to be in a lot of trap games where a team like Sheridan or Santiam, Culver, Colton, Western (Christian), they’ll come up and they can catch us on an off-night.
“They’ll surprise us. So, we need to stay focused one day on a time and we’ll do more on the preparation-side so that focus stays there.”
As they progressed, the 21 girls in the gym were more than they had last year, the vibe is different but that drive and expectations of them are the same as before.
“We got a different vibe, it’s not a bad vibe but it’s a different vibe. We got young talent in the gym compared to a senior-led group. The returners that are here, they beat up on the seniors that were here last year,” Buse said. “They pushed them in practice, so they’re ready to go. They’re waiting to see who’s going to push them this year and we’re hoping to develop that next crew that’s coming up behind them.”
Gervais opens the season December 1 when they host East Linn Christian Academy before hitting the road Friday December 3 when they play at Willamina.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald