Sports

Fresh start for Sequim girls

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First-year Sequim coach Stephanie Lewis recalls several nights during the offseason when she simply couldn't sleep.

Not uncommon for a new coach taking over an 0-20 team.

Thing is, Lewis wasn't kept awake with anything like dread.

"I was having trouble sleeping because I was so

excited, thinking how to tweak this drill or that drill," Lewis says.

The Wolves hope that nervous energy from their coach and the infusion of youthful fervor from a trio of freshman translates into something resembling the winning program the Wolves used to boast of.

Lewis and assistants Gary Pringle and Evan Still say there is plenty of reason for optimism.

Back from last year's squad is hyper-kinetic junior Lea Hopson, a point guard Lewis says will be one of the team's captains.

"Not only does she lead with words but also with actions, by example," the

Sequim coach says of Hopson.

The Wolves also have six returnees who saw varsity or junior varsity action.

And then there are the newcomers.

"I've got three amazing freshmen," Lewis says. "They've got athleticism I haven't seen in all of my years of coaching."

Haleigh Harrison, Rylleigh Zbaraschuk and Taylor Balkan are pushing not just for varsity roles but for spots in the starting five.

Lewis says each frosh has something to build on, from Harrison's jumping ability, Zbaraschuk's spunk and Balkan's court sense.

"Plus, I'll have four years with them," Lewis says.

"They already want to attack on the court," she says. "The whole point of the game is to score, how ever that happens (is fine)."

The first-year coach says it helps that she got to know some of the girls as a coach at the middle school level, instead of totally starting from scratch.

To help that team camaraderie, Lewis has scheduled a couple of team-building exercises from attending a University of Washington women's basketball game together last week to an "Amazing Race"-style activity challenging their bodies and minds.

Taking a team that had zero wins into another season, Lewis says the expectations from opponents for this Sequim squad will be low. She's counting on it.

"I think we're going to surprise a lot of people," Lewis says.

The Wolves were slated top open Nov. 30 at Chimacum and play at Bainbridge on Dec. 1 - results were unavailable at press time. Sequim is at Klahowya Dec. 4 and at North Mason on Dec. 8 before their first home contest, a double-header with the varsity boys Dec. 11 versus Port Townsend.



Rebuilding from scratch

In 2007-2008, the Wolves battled their way into the district playoffs and scored an 11-point win against Steilacoom, then fell two games short of state under first-year coach Lisa Corbit.

But in 2008-2009, after losing much of their roster to graduation, the Wolves stumbled out of the blocks from the get-go, dropping a game to Klahowya in the opener (Sequim hadn't lost to the Eagles in their 21 previous meetings). Sequim proceeded to drop all 20 games in the season, losing by an average of 31 points per contest.

The Wolves missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003-2004.

When Corbit stepped down from the position at the end of last school year, Lewis, an assistant and former Sequim Middle School coach, stepped up.

Lewis grew up in the Tacoma area and played basketball at middle school and high school levels - four years with Lakes' coach Allan Cail - and for another four or five select hoops teams. She coached a select boys team before joining the Curtis High School staff in 2004, where she worked as an assistant for Cail through 2006.

After a year of teaching at Fort Lewis, Lewis joined the Sequim Middle School staff in 2007 as a physical education teacher and moved to the high school last year, where she teaches physical education, aerobics and team racket sports. Lewis also coaches the middle school's seventh-grade volleyball team and the track & field throwers.



Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.

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