WEST JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Lady Huskies will have a nice blend of youth and experience on this year’s team that will include five seniors and nine players returning from last year’s squad.
One difference to note this year is that there is not a junior varsity squad due to a low number of players at the freshman and sophomore level that play basketball. Two sophomores, Sam Woods and Abby Sullivan, both played varsity as freshmen and incoming freshman Hallie Treva is expected to contribute a lot to the team almost immediately.
“It is unfortunate that we have such low numbers in our ninth and 10th grade classes, but I feel confident this is only for this year,” said varsity head coach Laura Foster. “Our seventh and eighth grade classes have lots of girls that play basketball and many of those girls are very committed and dedicated in improving their basketball skills. They are working at their game a lot.”
Foster said that 11 of the current eighth graders attended the team camp this past summer.
The five seniors that Ashe brings back include a pair of honorable mention all-conference players from last season. Chloe Sullivan, who missed the all-conference team by one spot, and Sydney Kate Grubb, the other honorable mention player, will be relied on as two of the team leaders this year. Amber Miller, Olivia Patton and Gracie Greene round out the 2016-17 senior Lady Huskies.
“This senior class is a group of exceptional young ladies that are the epitome of the student athlete. They all are highly dedicated to their academics and athletics,” said Foster. “They are selfless, very coachable and are highly respected among their teammates.”
Woods returns after a stellar freshman season that saw her earn an all-conference spot. She was the team’s leading scorer last season and is expected to shoulder quite a bit of the offensive workload once again.
Ashe will have two other newcomers to the varsity squad joining the freshman Treva. Junior guard Lauren Eldreth played on JV as a sophomore last season after her family moved here from Tennessee and sophomore Emma Shepherd will move up to the varsity squad looking to improve her skills.
The season tips off on Tuesday night with Ashe traveling to Bunker Hill for the first of three games to close out November. Ashe returns home for a game with Watauga on Nov. 29 and another home game the next day against Avery.
December starts off with two road games, first at Watauga on Dec. 2 and a trip to North Surry on Dec. 5. The first conference game of the year will be at home against Elkin on Dec. 7 before trips to West Wilkes (Dec. 9) and Alleghany (Dec. 13).
Ashe closes out the month with a home game against Starmount on Dec. 16, a road trip to Hibriten on Dec. 22 and the annual Colvard Oil Holiday Classic on Dec. 27-28.
The new calendar year begins on Jan. 3 at North Wilkes. Next up, the Lady Huskies will host East Wilkes on West Wilkes on Jan. 6 and Jan. 9.
Ashe makes the return trip to Avery on Jan. 11 before a key conference battle at Wilkes Central on Jan. 13.
The final non-conference game of the regular season will be on Jan. 18 with Bunker Hill coming to the High Country.
The team wraps up conference play with a home game against Alleghany (Jan. 20), a road matchup with Starmount (Jan. 24), a home date with North Wilkes (Jan. 26), trips to East Wilkes (Jan. 31) and Elkin (Feb. 3) and Senior Night at home against Wilkes Central (Feb. 7).
The home game against North Wilkes also marks the annual Hoops For Hope campaign raising money for breast cancer awareness.
The MVAC Tournament will begin on Feb. 9.
What Coach Foster is saying about her team
Senior forward Gracie Greene: “Gracie truly is a team before self player. She understands her role and will do whatever she can to help her team be successful. She is an outstanding free throw shooter, and has a good left hand. Gracie works extremely hard and has a great attitude.”
Senior guard Sydney Kate Grubb: “Syd played varsity since her freshmen year; she has a lot of experience and knows what I need from her and leads by example. We will rely on Syd’s ball handling, leadership and shooting. She can put the ball on the floor and can slice through defenders and can make the floater in the lane. Syd is shooting the three with much more confidence.”
Senior guard/forward Amber Miller: “Amber is a very smart player that plays to her strengths. She can give us minutes at both the guard and forward positions, she knows both positions’ responsibilities. She is a good shooter and can knock down the three. Works hard and has a great attitude.”
Senior guard Olivia Patton: “OP is a tough, gritty player, very good defender. Olivia is the type of player that all teams need, a blue collar type player. She doesn’t mind to do the dirty work, gets after loose balls, takes charges, those things that may not show up in a box score.”
Senior point guard Chloe Sullivan: “Chloe has played varsity since her freshmen year; she has a lot of playing experience and is the heartbeat of our team. She provides a little bit of everything for us and most importantly she is the leader of the team, providing all that goes with that. She is without a doubt, the best leader I have had at ACHS.”
Junior forward Jayce Miller: “Jayce has probably improved as much as any player from last year to this year. Jayce is so athletic and very aggressive offensively. We need Jayce to stay healthy (back injury kept her out of some games last year) she will be needed to provide us scoring in the post and of course rebounding. She is very versatile, which might give her an advantage in the post because she can score off the bounce.”
Junior guard Madison Osborne: “Madison suffered a back injury just before the season started and has not been released to play; not sure when or if she will get back on the court this season. She is disappointed and I am disappointed that she has had to miss a very crucial part of the season. She is working hard to get healed up and time will tell.”
Junior guard Lauren Eldreth: Lauren is still learning our system, with only playing her first year for the JV Lady Huskies last season as a sophomore (moved her from Bristol, Tenn.). Lauren has a lot of potential; She is very athletic and can do several things with the basketball. She is working hard and understands that she is playing behind two veteran guards. She has a great attitude and continues to improve daily.
Sophomore forward Abby Sullivan: “Abby played varsity and got some time as a freshman; Abby is playing with so much more confidence this year, and that has really helped her game. She works extremely hard and is very dedicated to continuing to improve her game. She has a good left hand and has increased her shooting range. I look for Abby to have a breakout season.”
Sophomore guard Sam Woods: “Sam had an outstanding freshmen season last year. She knows that she probably gets most teams best defenders. But she has really worked hard to improve her ball handling and her ability to create her own shot. Sam is one of the best shooters to ever put on a Lady Huskies uniform. She is a really good rebounder for her size. We need for Sam to have another good year.”
Sophomore forward Emma Shepherd: Emma played JV last season; Emma is a player has a great attitude and work ethic. She has showed tremendous improvement over the past three weeks of practice. She has responded well to the intensity of the varsity practice. She is a really good rebounder and has tons of potential to be a very good player for us. She will see limited action, but Emma accepts this and wants to learn all she can.”
Freshman guard/forward Hallie Treva: “Hallie has responded well to the varsity level, it is a huge jump from middle school. Hallie can do a lot of good things offensively; she can shoot the three, score off the bounce, score in the post and handle the ball. Hallie will probably play more at the 4/5 position this season, due to the fact we are so small and she has good size and is able to hold her own at the position. Hallie’s potential is limitless, she has all the tools to become a very good basketball player for us.”
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-489-3062.