POWHATAN – When it comes to the 2019-20 girls’ basketball season around the bend, there are a couple things that Powhatan senior Michala Taylor is most excited about.

First, there’s winning. But then, there are the pregame dinners, for which she and her teammates put their phones away and get to have genuine conversations with one another.

“I feel like it brings us all together,” she said, “and makes our bond stronger.”

Building up team chemistry is central to Powhatan’s focus. This year’s team is young, and they’re still learning each other and how to play and work together.

“We’re going to need to grow each week and learn from our mistakes – that’s going to be pretty important for us as the season goes on,” said head coach Kristy Henderson. “But I have 13 girls who are willing to work and willing to practice hard every day and it’s just a really great bunch of girls to work with.”

“We’re a really well-connected team…we all get along really nicely,” said returning sophomore Faith Henderson, who added: “If we all work together, we will get good shots.”

“If we just give 100 percent effort into practices…we can definitely improve on our passing, shooting, dribbling,” said returning sophomore Kayla Terry, “and just being a better team overall and working hard.”

Multisport athlete Taylor, who’s among the team’s seniors, said their willingness to want to get better every day has improved so much.

“The upperclassmen like Gabby (Dintino) and Rachel (Losch) bring positivity every day,” Taylor said. “There’s never a dull moment with these girls, which makes us better on and off the court.”

“I think once we mesh together, we’re going to be really successful,” Losch said. “I think this team is really positive…and we want to do better…I’m excited to make the rest of my team better because they’re a young team and they have more years ahead of them.”

While Powhatan graduated a talented and versatile selection of seasoned leaders – which featured Class of 2019 standouts Katie Henderson, Katlyn Hicks, Charlotte Kramer and Maggie Salomonsky – the team returns the four players who were its leading scorers in its final game of the 2018-19 season: Faith, Taylor, Terry and senior Reese Vandell.

Taylor got a lot of time in the post for Powhatan in the second half of last season; Coach Henderson hopes she’ll get to continue that this year, as well as generate more offensive production. Vandell with her quickness will be able to help her team both offensively and defensively, and the team anticipates that newcomers Jillian Ratliff and Logan Anthony will be able to contribute to the defensive side of the ball following the graduation of Hicks, who last year earned the team’s defensive player of the year honors.

Henderson spoke to Faith’s versatility and said they’ll use her in all positions when need be. “And having Kayla back as the starting point guard for us is definitely giving us a boost with the new season coming up,” she said of Terry before adding with a smile: “She’s got that three-pointer down pat, and she’s been shooting the ball pretty well here.”

Sophomore Sophie Dolan has shown herself to be a good shooter, and Coach Henderson anticipates she’ll hold a big offensive role on the team. And both Dintino and Losch, Henderson added, have worked really hard, putting in a lot of time and effort and competing for the chance to pick up more playing time on the court.

“Gabby would come in and play for 2 minutes and she would work so hard and give Maggie (Salomonsky) a rest, but she knew her role and she did great! This year she’s ready for a little more,” Coach Henderson said. “And Rachel’s such a great shooter – when she’s wide-open against the zone, she can drill some shots for us.”

Kelsey Nickerson also joins Ratliff as the new juniors on the varsity team, and Powhatan will begin the season with currently just one freshman in Erin Almond. New sophomores in addition to Anthony and Dolan include Meghan Hodge and Faith’s volleyball teammate Emilie McDaniels, who contributed key blocks in games during the volleyball season and brings rebounding ability to the basketball season.

With the shift in districts comes a very challenging schedule. Teams with recent legacies of winning state championships like Cosby and Monacan, will now be twice-a-year opponents in the regular season. Powhatan will also get two guaranteed chances to play Huguenot – the team that beat the Indians in the first round of last year’s region tournament.

“They’re definitely going to be really strong, really well-rounded and athletic teams – they’re going to be fast,” Dintino said. “That’s going to push us to really get in shape and condition and work really hard in everything we do in practice.”

And facing those strong teams will help the Indians “get better and more talented as a team,” she added.

“It’ll teach us to push all the way through,” Dintino said, “because even when we’re losing, we still have to fight to the end and just continue to work hard, keep us positive.”

To be the best, you play the best, Coach Henderson said.

“I feel like we’re going to be challenged real early and have some time in our schedule to work on some things over the winter break and prepare for the bulk of our season in January to get ready for tournament play,” Coach Henderson said.

“They are talented schools without a doubt,” Taylor said of their new district opponents. But she added that, if they can outwork those schools “on every play, pass and transition,” then they can shut-down their confidence all-the-while showing them how much talent Powhatan has.

“Everyone is an even competitor,” Taylor said. “Basketball is a sport where you can lose by 20 points to one team and play that same exact team and win by 20 points. It’s all about the effort and not making any excuses.”

Powhatan will begin its 2019-20 season on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at Cosby at 7:15 p.m. before hosting Huguenot this Thursday, Dec. 5 at 6 p.m.

Terry spoke to the importance of bringing a positive attitude to the team “no matter what,” and if the Powhatan Indians – whether they win or lose – don’t give up, then – to Losch – they’re “going to have a successful season.”

And Coach Henderson said: “I just think if we can stay positive and keep working together to improve each week, each game, learn from our mistakes, then it’s going to be a successful year.”

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