MT. ULLA — There are a lot of new faces at West Rowan.
Including coach Ashley Poole. Last year, Poole saw West win the Moir Christmas Classic for the first time since 1996.
Poole coached at North Rowan Middle School for several years, seeing good teams. She played at Salisbury High in the mid-90s and helped the Hornets win the Moir Christmas Classic in 1995.
She’s accomplished, but a tough task lies ahead of her. Poole takes over after a two-year stint from Todd McNeely with goals in mind.
“I wanted to build a program,” Poole said of taking the West job. “I don’t just want to go somewhere a few years before leaving. I’ve come over to coach a great group of girls that all want to be in the gym.”
Given all the uncertainty, it seems almost unnecessary to discuss last year if it weren’t so memorable.
2012-2013 was one of the best seasons in the Falcons history. The 24 wins were third-most in school history. Two of those victories led to a Moir title, West’s first since 1996. The Falcons also won the NPC tournament after a second-place finish in the league. West was upended by Carson in the first round of the playoffs. West beat the Cougars three times during the regular season, but Carson cracked the code in the postseason with a trio of clutch three-pointers from Kate Cole. It seemed an abrupt way to end such a special year.
Player of the Year Shay Steele and sharpshooter Alison Sobataka are gone to play in college. All-county guard Nycieko Dixon transferred to North Rowan. Just like that, West has 1,154 points from last season to replace. The Falcons want to make up for that by creating offense through their defense by creating turnovers and adding possessions.
Poole says even she won’t know much about her squad until the games begin, but she knows one thing. The Falcons will have to put in some elbow grease to sustain the level set last season.
“The whole dynamic of the team has changed,” Poole said. “We’re going to have to create more than they did last year. Everybody’s got to have to look to score.”
Guard Khaila Hall is West’s only returning all-county player. Hall had a great freshman year, scoring 13 points in her first varsity game. She appeared in all 27 games, scoring 237 points. Hall has speed and is the go-to option for offense.
“She’s got a ton of potential,” Poole said. “She’s a good defender and quick to the basket off the dribble. She’s got to work on her shot.”
Shanice Miller is a well-rounded player who’s able to shoot and hit the glass. Poole describes Quanice Miller as a senior leader and one of the hardest workers.
“I like our willingness to work,” Poole said. “Being a new coach, I like that they’re not set in their own ways. They’re open to new ideas and very coachable.”
West is inexperienced in the post. Anna Messisco, a stud on the beach volleyball circuit, joined the team and would have gotten significant minutes before tearing her ACL in a recent scrimmage.
“She’s a great presence on the court,” Poole said. “Losing her hurts us some. She can still provide leadership.”
Seniors Berkley Alessandrini and Anna Edwards provide depth on the floor and Elizabeth Freeze can play in the frontcourt.
Sophomore Taylor Martin is a scrappy with a gift for the outside shot, not unlike older brother Seth. Emily Goddard and Rachel Chambers will come off the bench and Shikkiera McNeely, Diamond Lovell, Tatiana Cowan and Marissa Yow provide depth.
“They’re a tight-knit group of girls,” Poole said. “I like their camaraderie already. They’ve already got that.”
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