NEWBERRY - Having won only a handful of games over the course of the past six seasons, the Newberry High School girls basketball team needed, more than anything, a change of pace this season.
With the addition of a new head coach in Robert Depew, that change of pace and subsequent success this season may just be in the cards for the stumbling program.
Depew, who is replacing Tom Rahilly in the head coach position, said that with a blend of newfound enthusiasm and heavy conditioning, the team is hoping to reach the .500 mark in its record this season.
"It's a very slow process right now," Depew said. "We've been going through a lot of changes and we only have eight girls out. I don't think we've won more than six games in the last seven years so we're trying to get to .500. That would be our starting point."
With a revitalized offense and a high-pressure defense - made necessary by the Indians' lack of height - Depew feels his team's goal of .500 is reasonable this season.
"We'll get a whole new offensive system going in and a little bit better defense and we'll see what we've got going for us," he said.
Nov. 27 - Pickford, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 29 - At Engadine, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 4 - At Munising, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 7 - Cheboygan, 6 p.m.,
Dec. 10 - Brimley, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 14 - Rudyard, 6 p.m.
Dec. 28 - Manistique, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 4 - At Rogers City, 6 p.m.
Jan. 11 - St. Ignace, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 15 - At Pickford, 7:30 p.m..
Jan. 18 - Sault Ste. Marie, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 22 - Munising, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 25 - At Cheboygan, 6 p.m.
Feb. 1 - At Rudyard, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 7 - Rogers City, 6 p.m.
Feb. 11 - Engadine, 7:30 p.m..
Feb. 13 - At Manistique, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 15 - At St. Ignace, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 19 - At Brimley, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 21 - At Sault, 7:30 p.m.
That being said, Depew knows that no matter how good the offense and defense are, winning games comes down to endurance, and so Newberry has been focusing strongly on agility in the preseason.
"A lot of it is just the conditioning of the girls. We're just not up tempo enough," he said. "We need to build more speed and make a little more of a pressure defense. Our girls tire too quickly now, so if we get better conditioning, they will be a lot fresher in the fourth quarter when they have to execute and get things done."
Another thing Depew hopes to bring to the program in his first year is a sense of teamwork and cooperation, which he says has lacked slightly in years prior, but has become all the more necessary without an established star player this year.
"(I would like us) to be more of a team-oriented group," Depew said. "We have a number of girls that can play, but we don't have a star, so-to-speak. We don't have one go-to girl, so it's just going to be wide open, whoever has the opportunity to score, they'll get their chance."
Depew acknowledged that if the team continues on the track that it's on currently - one of good chemistry and potential - that it will find success one way or another this year.
"They're a good group of girls. There's not a lot of animosity on the team right now, so that's good," he said. "If they continue like that, then it will be a whole lot better for us this year."
Among the upperclassmen that will help lead the Indians are Darion Oberle and Samantha Beaulieu, who are both are seniors who will be playing in their third varsity season in 2012-2013.
"They are going to be counted on for most of the leadership," Depew said. "That's how I'm looking at it right now. They've been to extra open gyms and what not and they would be our team leaders at the current time."
In addition to the three seniors that Depew has on the team is fellow team leader Marissa Rushford, who endured an ACL injury last spring and will be out for the first few months of the season. Regardless, Depew acknowledged that he has a solid amount of experience on the team this season.
"We have the three seniors, who've all played three years of varsity basketball and then we have a junior (Rushford) who is in her third year on the varsity," he said. "So the girls that are here have played a lot and I think that just their experience of being on the court with the competition, that should really benefit them."