The Western Reserve Academy girls basketball team put in the type of work in the 2013-14 season that should pay off next season.
The Pioneers had only one returning varsity starter, senior Emma Presley, as well as a new head coach in Emily Thews.
But thanks to Presley's leadership as a four-year varsity player and Thews' familiarity with the team from her previous role as coach of the junior varsity team, the squad made significant progress throughout the season and put a strong foundation in place.
"We had the varsity and junior varsity practice together for the first time and that experience will help us down the road as our younger players are gaining experience in practice," Thews said.
"The talent gap this year between our varsity and junior varsity was pretty small, so we wanted to have them work together to help the team long term."
In addition to Presley, who was named the team's Most Valuable Player, the Pioneers relied on current juniors Catherine Berry (the Coaches/Spirit Award recipient), Hudson residents Hannah McKenzie (co-Most Improved Player), Sarah Forhan (Hudson) and Zoe Leciejewski (co-Most Improved Player) and Natalie Zupan.
"The rising senior class will be a force to reckon with next season as they now have a lot of varsity experience," Thews said.
"By the end of the year, they were all scoring consistently, which is a huge advantage.
"We don't have to rely on just one player for our points."
Thews also credited the play of seniors Sophie Nichols and Alena Nichols as well as the support she received from assistant coach Tom Barry and junior varsity coach Julie Pratt.
With her first season concluded, Thews is looking to continue to build on this season's momentum by holding a team camp over the summer and working with the players in a summer league.