Kodiak Daily Mirror - A youth movement Kodiak girls basketball team takes the court in season tipoff
A youth movement: Kodiak girls basketball team takes the court in season tipoff
by Derek Clarkston / sports@kodiakdailymirror.com
Dec 14, 2011 | 88 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kodiak High School girls basketball coach Stephanie Dandliker directs players during Monday’s practice. Freshman Ila Hughes listens to the first-year coach. (Derek Clarkston photo)
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Stephanie Dandliker is patiently waiting for Friday night.

That’s the night she makes her debut as coach of the Kodiak girls basketball team as the Bears host Lathrop at 5:45 p.m.

“I just want to see what we look like against another team,” she said.

Dandliker, Kodiak’s junior varsity coach last season, takes over for Brett Larsen, who resigned after four seasons.

Dandliker inherits a team that went 10-12 last season and missed qualifying for the 4A state tournament for the first time in three seasons.

Just like on the sideline, the team on the court will look much different from the past several seasons.

The most significant challenge is replacing three-year starter Joanna Garcia, last year’s Northern Lights Conference’s MVP. Garcia now plays at Morton Community College in Chicago.

Garcia averaged more than 10 points per game and was the leader of the team from her point guard position.

“When you lose a player like that, it leaves a big void,” Dandliker said.

Kodiak has a roster full of guards. Sophomore Carissa Cannon and senior Jadelle Taan are the likely candidates to replace Garcia. Both have varsity experience.

“You hope to kind of instill some leadership in someone new,” Dandliker said. “I know Carissa filled that role somewhat when Joanna was sitting out. It’s not easy when you haven’t had the experience to take on a role like that. You have to have a lot of confidence and you have to pretty much let the team ride on your back. You have to be a rock.”

Along with Cannon and Taan, Kodiak brings back seniors Puni Timu and Carole Lampl and sophomore Hannah Wandersee, who all saw significant playing time last season.

Wandersee, an emerging inside presence, is the top returning scorer from last season at 7.8 points per game.

The remainder of the roster is filled with players who saw little to no varsity time last

season. Juniors Ruby Alcaide, RJ Aquino and Sarah Ng are joined by sophomores Megan Pyles and Adriane Horn and freshman Ila Hughes.

Senior Alesha Fish is new to the team.

“We are a young team, which is not a bad problem to have,” Dandliker said. “We do have some key players returning from last year ... We are looking to mix the young with ones who have been around a little bit.”

The team has plenty of time to gel, as Kodiak begins the season with nine consecutive nonconference games before the start of the NLC schedule.

“The goal is still playing hard and playing to win, but it is also good to form your identity as a team, get your roles down, see what our strengths and weaknesses are and perfect things so that when we get to conference play we are as good as we can be,” Dandliker said.

A new coach always brings changes to the system and Dandliker said she is giving the girls more freedom on offense.

“That is going to be a little bit of a struggle for some of the girls, having that freedom,” she said. “We have been working really hard at it and have been getting better.”

Before moving to Kodiak last year, Dandliker coached Metlakatla, a 3A school 15 miles south of Ketchikan. She also played for Eastern Michigan University.

She coached many of this year’s varsity players on last year’s junior varsity team.

“Some of the girls are getting used to me and what my style is in practice and some of the girls I have had before and they sort of know what to expect,” Dandliker said. “It is a little different. Coaching junior varsity is a much different approach than coaching varsity. In a way they do know me, but they are seeing me in a different light. Hopefully, I get to see them in a different light, too.”

Dandliker’s only expectation is that the team will do its best.

“Step on the court everyday for a game and play to win, play our hardest every single time and leave nothing on the floor,” she said.

Dandliker said Wasilla, the defending conference and state champion, and Colony are the teams to look out for in the NLC.

“They (Wasilla) had girls on junior varsity last year that stepped in on varsity and they didn’t lose much,” she said. “They are always tough. Colony is always tough. There is nobody that we can look past.”

Contact Mirror writer Derek Clarkston at sports@kodiak

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