New coach set to lead Ligonier Valley girls without Grimm
After reaching the PIAA playoffs last season in its first year at the Class AAA level, the Ligonier Valley girls basketball team will look to build off its success.
The road back to the state playoffs will be tougher for the Rams after losing standout athlete Maddy Grimm to graduation. Grimm, who averaged a team-high 13.1 ppg and 6.8 rpg last season, led the Rams to a 16-8 season with an 11-5 record in the District 6 Heritage Conference.
“She meant a lot to the team last year. She was a leader on the floor,” first-year coach Valerie Ray said. “She was very self confident and allowed those around her to be confident on the floor. They were confident they had someone on the floor they could pass it to and take the big shots.”
Ray, who was an assistant coach last season under Paul Dominic, realizes the team will need to shift their focus to more of a team game to be successful this year.
The Rams will look to fill in the void left by Grimm with senior guard Taylor Rudnik and junior guard/forward Madison McLaughlin. Junior's guard/forward Helene Bloom, forward Jamie Wynn and senior center Amanda Ross round out the projected starting five for the Rams.
Junior forward Kari Kuhn and freshman guard/forward Olivia Miller will be the first two off the bench.
Rudnik, who averaged 10 ppg last season, realizes the team has potential but will need to work on its confidence.
“I think we are going to be pretty decent this season. If we step up our play, we should do pretty well,” Rudnik said. “We have to just stay really confident when we play and keep our heads and not get frustrated.”
In her first year as the head coach, Ray has been trying to build the confidence and trust on the floor. Ray believes team bonding events needed to be added to the schedule this season in order to improve play on the court.
“Last year, I thought there could have been some more team unity. I want the girls to think that we are all in this together,” Ray said. “I would like the girls to have some more fun on the floor and more team bonding.”
The Rams will move from more of an outside shooting team to utilizing their strength in the post.
“We want to be more of an aggressive team with two guards and three down in the post,” Ray said. “We want to take it to the hoop more often and see what happens instead of taking 3-point shots.”
Andrew John is a freelance writer.