BRISTOL - The Plainville girls basketball team finished off its season on a high note Wednesday night with a 55-39 win over Bristol Central, rounding out the year with a 5-15 record. Nothing particularly exciting, but when you consider that the team won just three games a season ago it is, at the very least, progress.
This was Jessica Neuweiler’s first season as the head coach for Plainville and from game one it was clear things were different for the Blue Devils. The players noticed a new energy and realized they had a coach with high expectations for them.
“Last year it was a totally different mindset,” said junior Izzy Lozefski. “We didn’t practice and we didn’t have as much intensity. Coming into this year with a new coach I wasn’t sure what to think, but we were able to push and play at a much higher intensity.
“For me personally, I was able to do the things I like to do on the court, pass, cut and because of that, we were able to get a lot more things done.”
Neuweiler came into the season thinking about making a massive improvement in year one. Her goal was to get her team into the tournament. It finished three wins short but she can tell that progress has been made and that the program is building something special.
The head coach believed the team had a legitimate shot to qualify this season, but injuries and other factors prevented that from happening. Neuweiler thinks that ending the season on a win, though, is just the jolt the girls need to head into next season motivated and hungry.
“It’s huge to end the season on a win,” Neuweiler said. “I told them that we are so much better than what our record is. I wanted them to feel that and I wanted to end on a win to make sure that was driven home. I think that it’s important for us because we have a lot of young talent coming back and I want this to get them going for next year.”
The Blue Devils do have quite a bit of talent coming back next year but they will also suffer some key losses. Three seniors, Jessica Masco, Lauren Tanner and Taleah McCrorey, played in their last game for the school on Wednesday and will be missed not only for what they brought on the court, but also for their leadership.
“We are going to miss them a lot,” Lozefski said. “They all brought their own little special thing to the team and it’s great and without them it’s going to be tough.”
“I think each of them is very unique in their leadership skills and they each brought something special to this team,” Neuweiler said. “I think they will be really missed and collectively they helped keep us together this season. We had a lot of adversity and they were the constants that kept leading by example.”
The adversity Neuweiler speaks of is the amount of injuries Plainville had to deal with. Caitlin Barker went down with a torn ACL early in the season, Cheyenne Emmendorfer missed a big chunk of the season with injuries and mono and other players missed time throughout the season with various bumps and bruises.
The head coach said that even in the win over Bristol Central several girls were playing through injuries that have lingered. Neuweiler believes that next season if the team can stay healthy, they will be better served for having dealt with all of the adversity it dealt with over the course of this year.
“We came into the season wanting to make the tournament but we got hit with the injury bug really early on,” Neuweiler said. “But I think that we put the right things in place and we continued to work hard. No matter what got thrown at them they kept fighting through it.
“That puts us in a place for next year that they understand the process and they understand what’s expected of them. So now they come in better prepared, now I’m not a first-year coach for them next year, to do the things that we need to do to be successful.
“With all of the talent we have coming back next year, I absolutely think we should make that tournament.”
Neuweiler knew coming in that this wouldn’t be an easy job to turn Plainville into a winning program. But in her first year she added to the win total and maybe more importantly has the players looking forward to what’s next and how good they can possibly be next season.
“I think we are going to do a lot better next year,” Lozefski said. “We have a lot of players coming back that have a lot of talent and even though we are going to be missing a couple of players we will fill the spots and I am expecting us to have a great year.”
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @Bigwoolf5