Experienced players can help Pats go far

ISHPEMING — Ten wins was the goal for head coach Kurt Corcoran last season, and the Westwood girls basketball team fulfilled that goal finishing with an overall record of 12-9.

Corcoran now hopes his Patriots improve even more this season and go further in the Upper Peninsula postseason after being ousted in the first game of the Class C district tournament at the hands of Norway.

Corcoran said the first few days of practice have gone well, despite not having a full roster available due to the school’s volleyball team making a run to regionals.

“The first couple of days were a little hectic, we made that volleyball run so we weren’t at full strength for a couple of days,” he said. “Other than that, things have been going really well. The girls’ attitudes are fantastic and it’s been a building process for a number of years to get the type of leaders that we have this year.

“Girls learning from previous graduates, kind of molding each other into the types of leaders we expect around here, and this is the kind of the first year we’re seeing the fruits of our labors as far as attitude and leadership goes.”

Two of those senior leaders are forward Elizabeth Farley and center Marissa Carello, who the coach says have the most experience on the court.

Farley has worked hard to prepare for the season and will match the talent of any player this year.

“Liz has just put so much time in the gym,” Corcoran said. “She will be as strong if not stronger than any girl she sees in the U.P. this year. She’s a fantastic leader.”

The Patriots also return sophomore guard Madelyn Koski, who earned All-Mid-Peninsula Conference First Team honors as a freshman.

While Corcoran said Farley, Carello and Koski are the top three returners, he’s not overlooking the rest of his team.

Also returning will be sophomore guard Tessa Leece and senior guards Aidan Reath and Karlie Kargela, the latter who took a couple of years off before coming back for her senior season.

Corcoran praised all three, stating they’ve all come a really long way and have improved their skills since entering the varsity program.

“We’re still very young,” he said. “We’re young but we also have more experience than we’ve had in a while going into a season.

“We had our ups and downs last year, but we set our goal for 10 wins. The year prior we only had five wins. We said a great year would be 12 wins and we ended up with 12 so I was very happy with that.”

With all eyes on Negaunee newcomer Natalie Bartle, as well as other veteran players, Corcoran said that the Miners are on pace to be the biggest threat in the M-PC this season.

“They’ve got Clara (Johnson) coming back for her senior year and they’re returning Abby Nelson,” Corcoran said. “They’re basically the same team, so Negaunee is going to be a big threat to everybody.”

He said the ultimate goal for his team is to play hard and compete, which he hopes rewards his team with a conference title.

“Our goal is to compete in every single game, learning how to compete and never giving up and outworking our opponents,” he said. “Our goal is also to win the conference title and make a run in the playoffs, but that’s so far in advance. It’s going to be any team’s goal at the beginning of the year to get as far as they can.

“It’s really just to compete against the upper-echelon teams, the Negaunees, the Marquettes, the Houghtons of the world. Those top-tier teams.

“If we want to put our money where our mouth is, we need to become a top-tier team and really compete with these perennial powerhouses in the U.P.”

Corcoran said with a mix of both young and experienced players, expectations are raised.

“The expectations are up this year,” he said. “It’s easy to coach when nobody really expects much out of you, but I think the community and the public probably has a little bit greater expectations for us this year.”

Westwood opens the season on Dec. 1 at home against Kingsford.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.