Basketball Preview: Frontier, Galus getting better with experience
Since taking over as Frontier head coach three seasons ago, Rick Mihalik has stressed to his players that it will take putting in the time and effort playing basketball and working on conditioning for them to see improvement individually and as a team.
They put in the time and effort last offseason and saw an improvement from three wins to a 10-10 mark in 2011-12. With much of that team back and the players’ resolve to keep getting better, Mihalik can see his team’s level of play jumping another notch forward this season.
“More so than ever, these girls want to compete and get better,” said Frontier’s third-year head coach. “Individually, they want to get better as a people and this group as a whole, is hungry and they want it. It’s one thing to say you want it, but I think this group does a good job of showing that they want it with their effort every day.”
Because they worked so hard throughout the year, and do much of that work among one another, Mihalik has a team that is tight as friends and cohesive on the floor.
“This is a team that’s finally at the point where they have a lot of varsity game-time experience,” Mihalik said. “The girls are excited and I’m excited. We’re not there yet but we’re working hard.”
The Falcons will take their lead from fourth-year senior starter Natalie Galus, who’s not only a record-setting power forward but one of the most serious of players about constantly playing the game and better understanding it.
Galus isn’t just satisfied with a junior season in which she set a school record with 337 points in the season and 36 points in a game. Mihalik said she was hard at work in the weight room and agility workouts which have put her in great shape. Galus is just 178 points shy of 1,000 after averaging 16. 8 points, 7.2 rebounds, along with 61 total steals last season.
“Natalie has become the complete player where she’s been able to dominate on the floor because of her athletic ability and now she’s starting to evolve into learning the mental part of the game,” Mihalik noted. “This year is a big year for her. She wants it and she’s going to do what it takes to get us there.”
Also providing leadership for Frontier will be its only other senior in forward Jocelyn Kempf. Mihalik said Kempf brings an outstanding attitude and will be looked to for her defense and rebounding.
Also returning are junior guards, Caisey and Kaitlyn Lipka, who are twins that have been on the varsity since their freshmen year, and classmate Hannah Lease, a shooting guard. Caisey Lipka will start at the point with Kelsey Ebert and Tatiana Tirado competing for time there, as well.
Mihalik has also brought up two freshmen to the varsity who he expects to contribute as forwards. Lexi Rockey played for the junior varsity the last two years, while Jensen Lee was brought up after Lexi’s older sister, junior Lauren Rockey, was injured in a car accident.
“The freshmen are here to play; they’re not here to sit the bench,” said Mihalik, who has to replace four players who graduated, including one of his top scorers in guard Jordan Snyder. He’ll use a seven to eight player rotation.
Breaking into the top tier of teams in Class AA and ECIC Division I should continue to be a challenge, although there may be some room for Frontier to creep in. ECIC I power Jamestown will have a new coach and division front-runner Lancaster lost two of its top players. Defending sectional champion Lockport should continue to be a force coming out of the NFL.
“Those are the teams we’re hunting for,” said Mihalik, whose team won a playoff opener before its season was ended by Lockport in the sectional quarterfinals. “We haven’t been able to compete with them; we haven’t had the depth to do it. This year, the girls know we’re getting after it.”
Frontier Girls 2012-13 Schedule
Tues., Dec. 11 at Hamburg 7:30 pm
Thur, Dec. 13 vs WS West 7:30 pm
Mon., Dec. 17 at Orchard Park 6:30 pm
Fri, Dec. 21 vs Clarence 7:30 pm
Thur., Dec. 27 Frontier Tourney
vs Immaculata 1, 4 pm
Fri., Dec. 28 Frontier Tourney TBA
Fri., Jan. 4 at Will. North 7:30 pm
Tues., Jan. 8 at Jamestown 7:30 pm
Thur., Jan. 10 vs. Lancaster 7:30 pm
Sat., Jan. 12 vs. Mercy 7:30 pm
Wed., Jan. 16 vs. Orchard Park noon
Thur., Jan. 17 at W.S. West 6:30 pm
Thur., Jan. 24 at Clarence 7:30 pm
Tues., Jan. 29 at Sweet Home 6:30 pm
Fri., Feb. 1 vs. Will. North 7:30 pm
Mon., Feb. 4 vs. Jamestown 7:30 pm
Thur., Feb. 7 at Lancaster 7:30 pm
Wed., Feb. 13 vs. Holy Angels 7:30 pm