Mt. Vernon Register-News

Sports

November 20, 2012

Draege takes over young Woodlawn girls team

WOODLAWN — New faces will be a common theme for the Lady Cardinals basketball team this season.

The changes start with the coaching staff. Former Woodlawn player Trisha Draege takes over the head coaching duties this season for a team that advanced to the regional final a season ago and finished with its third straight winning season.

“It’s been interesting coming back here and coaching,” Draege said. “I was thrilled and excited whenever I got hired in the spring. There’s been a lot of community support, which is really helpful.”

Draege, while being new to the girls basketball program, is a familiar presence to Woodlawn sports. She played her high school basketball for the Lady Cardinals before playing at Greenville College. She’s also been an assistant for Woodlawn’s volleyball team.

“(Woodlawn) is a very basketball-oriented place,” Draege said. “It definitely caught me off guard the more that people would ask (about the basketball team), but it is something I’m constantly thinking about.”

A season ago the Lady Cardinals struggled with depth, playing with just a handful of varsity players and no junior varsity squad. Going into this season, Woodlawn lost consistent performers Leah Sutton and Kinzie Verhines to graduation. This year 15 players are listed on the team’s roster. The losses in graduation and additions to the roster make this season’s team an inexperienced group.

“We have all different varied levels, but I think the biggest thing, although I think there may be some frustrations with where the kids are at or what they haven’t been taught in the past, it’s really encouraging to see the kids coming every day,” Draege said. “The fact that they are interested. They are willing to learn. They do everything you ask of them. They’re trying their hardest, and there has been a lot of growth in their skill and their ability from the first day.”

With a large segment of young players, Draege said she’s expects her team to take big steps of improvement as the season moves along.

“I would expect that in the postseason you would see a different team than what you saw (against Zeigler-Royalton) or even in these next few games,” Draege said.

The Lady Cardinals will have three seniors on the team. Alexa Capps is back with a vast amount of experience and is one of the top scoring guards in southern Illinois. The other two seniors are Cassandra Lueking and Elesa Hefner. Both played for the Lady Cardinals a season ago. Allison England is a returning starter and guard who will add experience to the squad.

“I think (England’s) most comfortable at the guard, but she’s strong enough and feisty enough that she can play down low, although she’s kind of small,” Draege said. “I kind of like that I can plug her into various spots, but I think her strength is on the wing on defense because she’s not afraid to put pressure (on).”

Freshman Kerstie Harlow will also see playing time at the varsity level. In the team’s opener, Harlow played all four quarters of both junior varsity and varsity games.

Woodlawn will rely on a pair of sophomores in the post. Catherine Coleman and Makaila Ballard will both play around the basket and give the Lady Cardinals a defensive and rebounding presence.

“I think (they) are huge forces for us underneath in just their strength and their size we can definitely use to our advantage,” Draege said.

Lueking and Shay Ilbery will also play in the post with Ballard and Coleman.

“Throwing them in adds a little bit of versatility to the post for us,” Draege said. “They’re very aggressive kids, and they did really well for us (against Zeigler-Royalton).”

Joining Draege on the coaching staff is her sister Kristina who also played at Woodlawn before continuing her career at Greenville College. John Kiselewski is another assistant. He most recently was the eighth grade boys basketball coach at Waltonville.

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