Coming off of back-to-back VHSL state championship appearances, Magna Vista comes into this season a much younger squad.
Head coach Vicki Hayes and the Lady Warriors have gone back to basics in the offseason. The team graduated four starters last year: 3A First Team All-State guard/forward Taisha DeShazo, Second team All-Conference 31 and All-Piedmont District guard/forward Moriah Hairston, Chelsea Moyer and Kelsea Moyer.
With those four gone, this year’s team has a much younger feel to it.
“Absolutely it’s new, but it’s exciting,” Hayes said. “To see the process of them developing and it becoming their team, their program is always an exciting part of coaching.”
Being a point guard requires leadership. Now a junior, Kayla Cabiness, the only returning starter from last season, will step up into an even bigger leadership role this year as the most experienced returner.
“Being the point guard, I think she was a leader (last season), but now she can put her own stamp on it. She’s doing a great job,” Hayes said.
Along with Cabiness, Mackenzie Hairston (sophomore), Ja’Liah Wilson (sophomore) and Shania DeShazo (junior) return to the team for the 2017-2018 campaign. DeShazo missed last year with an injury, but her limited experience is a plus. Hairston got sprung into a lot more time than expected in the state title run last season and that experience has gone a long way entering this season.
“I think that’s great,” Hayes said. “That’s good for anybody who gets that much playing time and comes back and you definitely can utilize that. She’s been good for the kids who didn’t play a lot last year.”
For Hayes, she gets to get back into what she really enjoys about coaching and that’s teaching the game of basketball. After having teams full of experience and championship aspirations in the past couple of seasons, the Lady Warriors aren’t worried about expectations. It’s time to learn the game and compete each time on the court.
“Every day is about getting better. It’s been so much focusing on the little things and starting over and teaching all aspects of basketball,” Hayes said. “I like teaching.”
It’s one thing to enjoy teaching. It’s another to have a team that’s willing to learn. After last year’s title game loss, Moriah Hairston said that she loved the group of underclassmen on the team because, “they really listen and learn from us and you can tell on the court from in practices and in games.”
If this group continues to listen and learn, the rest of the Piedmont District could be in for a surprise. The early parts of the year could see some struggles, but that’s what needs to happen for a young team to form its identity.
The roster, similar to last season, only has eight names on it. Experienced or not, everybody is going to see time on the court. With so much production needing to be replaced, Hayes said it’s still too early to tell what kind of team the Lady Warriors will be this season.
“I think every year is different, every team is different and I think we’re still forming an identity,” Hayes said. “We’ve got 18 scrimmages to figure it out.”
By scrimmages, Hayes is talking about the regular season. Yes, wins in the regular season are important, but for Magna Vista those games are more about getting better each and every time they take the floor. All that work goes toward being the best come postseason time.
“Our goals are to work on the little things that make you better as a team in order to get to the big things,” she said.
The season begins December 12 at Patrick County, team that will have much more returning experience taking the floor.
“We’re just going to be the best we can,” Hayes said.