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It wasn't enough to graduate two of the best players the Staunton River girls program has seen. That happened when Jodi Salyer and Shaniesha Robinson picked up their sheepskins last June.
It was the triple surprises that hurt. First, Danielle Holdren, a strong post player last year, transferred to LCA. Then, Kassie Hoag, a gritty starting wing last season, hoofed it over to Jefferson Forest.
To top it off, Brie Holdren, an indispensable component of the team, is walking around in a sling, the result of a shoulder injury.
"At the end of last year, I knew I'd lose Jodi and Shaniesha," recalled Head Coach Kim Jones. "But I thought we'd be OK, because we've got three starters coming back.
"Now, I've got none."
Well, Coach, with a program that has won multiple Seminole and Blue Ridge District titles over the past half dozen years, few outside of the Staunton River area are going to feel sorry for you.
Plus, you don't have a completely blank slate.
Holdren, a team captain, should return around Christmas time from a shoulder injury she sustained in an early practice session. She's biding her time by helping to keep things straight at practice. "She's like another coach," enthused Jones. When she's healthy, Holdren will swap time between point guard and wing.
In the meantime, Jones will look to the team's other two captains to lead the way. Addie Tuck and Lauren Mitchell are the only players (besides Holdren) with meaningful varsity minutes.
Fortunately, both are hard-nosed, multi-sport jocks. "Addie is playing tough and is ready for the challenge," assessed Jones. "Lauren is one of our best shooters. We need her to be free to shoot."
While Tuck stands a generous 5'9", she'll be called upon to play taller in the paint. Mitchell is a shooting guard, but can easily shift over to play the point.
Sister Act times two
While the team did suffer the aforementioned losses, it did pick up a pair of transfers. Sisters Sydney and Asia Stephens both switched from North Cross to Staunton River. (They had attended Staunton River Middle School.)
Asia is getting a strong look at point guard. She's not your prototypical point in that she's got great physical strength. She's also not afraid to take the shot. The sophomore also shows good smarts in that she's already picked up the complex Eagle offense.
Sister Sidney is shaping up as one of the team's better rebounders. Don't think she's one to dawdle after clearing the glass, though. She's got good quickness and speed.
Another pair of sisters should figure prominently in the Eagle future. Britney and Whitney Cawley are twins, but are far from being identical.
Whitney, at 5'10" is an inch taller than her sis. Whitney is also a pure post player who augments her game with a fine little jump shot. "She works hard in the paint and understands our program," said Coach Jones.
Britney is the Swiss Army Knife of the team. She played the point on JV, but can really plug in anywhere. "She's so helpful," noted Jones. "And she's versatile and loves defense."
Britney reminds some of Jodi Salyer, who is redshirting at Delaware in her first season as a Blue Hen.
Perimeter play should be augmented by junior Tana Heath. The shortest player on the team, at 5'4", Heath can plug in at either point guard or shooting guard.
Keara Brown, another of the team's few seniors, is another versatile player, who can plug in virtually anywhere. She's little, scrappy and full of fire.
A pair of soccer standouts look to parlay their athleticism onto the hardwoods. Lauren Greene and Taylor Tester, who were Staunton River's most dangerous scoring threats on the soccer pitch, can run all day and are tough as nails.
Kayte Walvoort, who was strong on the River volleyball crew last winter, shapes up as a defensive specialist for the Eagle hoopsters.
That will help, as one of the coach's objectives is to focus on defense. "With no standout scorer, we'll have to do well on defense," said Jones. "That will be our ticket to winning."
The Blue Ridge seems up for grabs this year, though Northside and Lord Botetourt are the likely early favorites.
There's an outside chance that Staunton River could work its way into the mix. Such a development would likely come together when Holdren is back on the court and the team has had more opportunities to develop under game conditions.
"It will be a fun challenge," said Jones. "I'm enjoying coaching these girls."