Sparta coach Josh Loveland isn’t content with the Lady Trojans chasing after another winning season that ends with a District defeat.
Sparta won 79 games over the past four seasons, but a District championship proved elusive.
“We've coined a phrase that the things we've done in the past haven't been good enough,” he said. “The last four years we won a lot of games. But we would get into February and go against Strafford or Fair Grove and we haven't been good enough.”
The Lady Trojans are looking to change their fate by changing their style of play.
“Our mindset the last few years was we were going to play fast and speed people up,” Loveland said. “You run up against Strafford and Fair Grove, who are good at playing fast. We weren't able to "out-athlete" their athletes. We've asked ourselves, 'Who do we have to be in February to win a District against (defending Class 3 state champion) Fair Grove?'
"We’re trying to be a lot better and a lot more efficient in a half-court offense,” he added. “We can't be a team that turns the ball over. We've got to be a team that can take long possessions, move the ball, not turn it over and when we get opportunities, stick it in.”
With the changes Sparta is making, the Lady Trojans naturally aren’t where they want to be, yet.
“It's been a whole process,” Loveland said. “There have been practices in which we've been frustrated and practices in which we've looked really good. Whenever you're doing things differently, you get those growing pains and have days in which you wonder if it's going to work.
“Hopefully, we're going to win a lot of games between now and February. I think we will,” he added. “But as long as we are where we want to be in February, that's what we're focused on."
Sparta started five seniors last season, but Loveland points out his current Lady Trojans have been accustomed to success, as well.
“This was our seventh year in a row being in a conference tournament championship game in junior high,” Loveland said. “That all started with our seniors that graduated last year. These seniors went 16-0 as seventh graders, 14-2 as eighth-graders and won a conference championship both years.
“They've been in the shadows,” he added “People don't realize how much they have contributed. As freshmen, they played a little bit of varsity, as sophomores they played more and as juniors they had nearly 40 percent of the minutes. They did a lot of good things and played extremely hard on defense last year.”
Now, seniors such as Mya Fulton, Amri Youngmon and Alivia Loveland will need to pick up their scoring.
“People are saying, 'Oh, you graduated a lot of kids, who is going to score for you?' I'm like, 'They can all score,'” Loveland said. “Any one of them can come out any night and have 20 points. That's a good quality to have. Mya is going to lead the charge. Every single night, you know what you're going to get from her, you're going to get the best she can give you. With more time on the floor, it's going to equate to more production from her.”
Averi Leyland figures to provide a boost, as she returns for her senior season. She saw varsity minutes as a freshman, before opting not to play the past two seasons.
The Lady Trojans have already made a favorable impression on Loveland.
“They work super hard, that's the most exciting thing about them,” he said. “They've got a really high ceiling because of how hard they're willing to play. I've told the girls multiple times that if they keep showing up and working like they have been, we're going to get there and we will know we have done everything we can to give ourselves a chance.”