By Mark Gregory
To say that the Maine South girls basketball team is an experienced bunch would be a massive understatement.
The Hawks graduated only two seniors from last season’s team and have the rest back.
“We return 12 kids, 11 of whom are seniors, so we expect a lot from this group,” said Maine South coach Mark Smith.
With the system the Hawks run, Smith said having so many returners is crucial.
“We are ahead of where we need to be as far as implementing our system and it is a pretty complex one, so we are ahead of schedule there,” he said. “This is basically their eighth season. They had summer, freshman year, summer, sophomore, summer, junior, summer now senior, so they better have an idea of what is going on out there. But we have so many different sets so many different entries, it’s over 100. We don’t out athletic teams on a daily basis, so we have to outsmart teams and execute our stuff. When we do that, we are pretty tough to beat.”
All things haven’t been perfect for Maine South through their first half dozen games.
“We need to take care of the basketball better,” Smith said. “Through our first six games, we are averaging more turnovers than most.”
But once they fix that, Smith is looking for the Hawks to compete in the Central Suburban League South Division.
“New Trier has to be the team to beat in our league,” he said. “They went downstate last year and return most of their key players. But, we would like to think that we will compete. Glenbrook South will compete, Evanston, Niles West, it is just such an unbelievable conference with amazing coaches and I am proud to be a part of it.”
Smith is looking for a group of those returning seniors to carry the load this year.
“Riley (Eckhart) has really improved her game. She is just a gym rat,” Smith said. She is in the gym all the time and has really worked hard to get better. Sam (Fagenholz) has shot the ball really well in games and has shown glimpses of what she did as a sophomore for us. That will build her confidence. Julia (Sirvinskas) has done a nice job handling the ball and Julia Spuria inside is the anchor of the defense and when she is healthy and on her game, she is awfully solid.”
With the difficult conference and difficult schedule Maine South will face this season, Smith said they cannot look ahead at games later in the season.
“The next game is always the biggest one for us,” Smith said. “We just have to focus on the next opponent.”
Smith hopes that experience, concentration and system knowledge will help Maine South make a run through the IHSA postseason,
“We have beaten teams deep in the playoffs that are much better than us thanks to heady play of our players,” he said. “So we will continue to strive for that kind of play from our kids as the season moves on so we can try for another deep run.”