Woodland Hills girls hope underclassmen deliver
Despite losing six seniors, including four starters from last season's team, the Woodland Hills girls basketball program will have to rely on a new cast of characters.
But coach Korie Morton-Rozier is optimistic about this year's team, a sense of optimism that revolves largely around her sophomore and senior classes.
“We're extremely young,” Morton-Rozier said. “I lost all my seniors from last year. I have two seniors that have been here for a while, then I basically go to sophomores.”
Coming off a 7-15 season (3-9 in WPIAL section 2-AAAA), the Wolverines return one starter in senior center Aleaha Jackson. She will be joined in the starting lineup by senior point guard Sarah Miller.
While Woodland Hills hasn't even played its first game, Morton-Rozier already has been impressed by the leadership skills of Jackson and Miller.
“They stay late, they work hard, and they get everybody ready to go on time,” she said. “We get out of school at 2:05, when it's 2:25, they're on the court and they are ready, and Sarah and Aleaha are leading that charge. At the end of every practice, they huddle everybody up and talk about how practice was.”
The Wolverines are hoping that type of leadership rubs off on their impressive sophomore class. Tenth graders Jaquella Grant, Shamelle Price-Wheeler and Jayla Ellis all will either start or see extensive playing time in Woodland Hills' four-guard lineup.
“Some of my sophomores I'm real excited about. They're athletic, they're fast,” Morton-Rozier said.
While stepping into an expanded role as a sophomore is never easy, Morton-Rozier is optimistic about the group and hopes the experience will have them playing like upperclassmen by the end of the season.
“When you're a sophomore and you start, coming in from not much playing time last year as a freshman to being put in that role, it definitely puts a lot on you,” Morton-Rozier said.
“I really hope to have my seniors go out on a good positive year, and I really want my sophomores to be seniors by the time the season's over, get enough experience,” she said.
With the Wolverines placed in a challenging Section 2-AAAA against the likes of Gateway, Fox Chapel and Plum, a playoff appearance will not be easy, but Morton-Rozier simply wants her team to get better each day.
“We'll take our bumps, but I'm definitely very excited about the season. I love all the girls. They're great this year.
“I'm really excited to get this season started. There's no expectation of us,” she said. “Of course I want to make the playoffs like I do every year, but I think being the underdog is great.”
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.