Marci Quirk is a self-proclaimed basketball junkie.
From the time she was a young child, she simply loved the game and nothing's changed as she begins her fifth season at the helm of the Bellaire Lady Reds.
Actually, a few things have changed for Quirk. Her last name has changed after she got married in the offseason. But, as it pertains to the Lady Reds, she's got a team full of basketball junkies who are anxious to quit talking about taking the next step and actually taking it.
T-L Photo/SETH STASKEY
PICTURED IS the 2013-14 Bellaire girls basketball team. Front row, from left, are Elisha Gillespie, Cari Crozier, Sarah Smith, Aubrey Ryan and Keirstyn Kidder. Second row, from left, are Shurae Lekanudos, Mary Garloch, Ariann Maupin, Nina Crook and Taylor Stoner. Back row, from left, are Sara Doddrill, Summer Baker, Khiah Kimbro, Kelsie Moser and Katey Mellot. Absent were Tara Duffy and Christina Iwerson.
"I like being around these girls because they're so intense and are working so hard," Quirk said. "I am lucky because I don't have to be as intense as I usually am because the girls are. They're feeding off each other and encouraging each other, so it's made it a really enjoyable preseason."
Quirk may have to dial down her intensity a bit because she's carrying her first child. She's due in April, so it won't affect her coaching duties.
"My goal is to not be as intense because I know I can't, but, in all honestly, I don't think I have to be as bad," Quirk said. "The girls don't need me to light that fire under them because they've lit it themselves."
For the first time in her now five years at the helm at her alma mater, Quirk elected to ring in the new season with a midnight madness practice on Oct. 25, which was the first day the OHSAA permitted practice.
"That was the best first practice we've ever had," Quirk said. "We've been ready to go since the beginning, which is something that has me really excited. I think we've only had one bad practice and that was my fault because they were dead tired."
It seems like Quirk has been extremely excited about seasons in years past, but it's never carried over to the court as Bellaire has struggled the last few seasons.
However, Quirk believes this is the season in which they turn the corner.
What makes her so confident?
"Our seniors are great leaders," Quirk said. "Our younger girls know that if they're doing something wrong, the seniors will tell them about it. It's not in a negative way, it's more of an encouraging way."
Another reason Quirk is so excited is because her team has its sights set on legitimate, attainable goals. One of those is reaching the OVAC Class 3A Championship tournament.
"We've had goals before, but I feel like those were my goals for (the girls), rather than their goals for themselves," Bonar explained. "This year the girls want things even more. There hasn't been an excuse made, which is something I feel like I've had to fight most seasons. I am just feeding off the girls' excitement, which is great."
The motto and approach for the Lady Reds is simple ... "show up and play hard."
That is something they'll do on both ends of the floor.
"We're a very intense team, but we have to cut down our turnovers," Quirk said.
Throughout the summer, Quirk spent time working on making sure her players knew when to dial down the intensity a tad on the offensive end, which she hopes will lead to fewer giveaways.
"Crazy defense is a good thing, but crazy offense isn't," Quirk said.
Also on the offensive end, Quirk thinks her team will be much more balanced.
"It could be a different girl each night leading us in scoring, which is a good thing," Quirk said. "I really think we've got different people who can score the ball now."
Junior Kierstyn Kidder (5-8) returns after a solid campaign in which she netted 16.2 points a game and gained a myriad of post-season honors.
"Kierstyn takes her scoring very seriously, but she's also worked on her defense, which is equally important," Quirk said. "She got a lot of shots up and has gotten stronger."
Senior Cari Crozier (5-6) is another adept perimeter shooter, who Quirk expects a big season from this winter as she seeks her fourth letter.
"Cari won't have to be the point guard for us this year, so she should get more opportunities to score," Quirk explained. "Cari's really shooting the ball well and has invested a lot of time in that."
Sophomore Nina Crook (5-5) is set to take over the point guard responsibilities. She saw time last season and also owns a strong perimeter shot.
Senior Aubrey Ryan (5-6) is a steady contributor, who Quirk says is "always in the right place." Ryan is a solid defender and rebounder.
"She never misses a boxout and she's very dependable," Quirk said.
Senior Elisha Gillespie is another player similar to Ryan in terms of willingness to do the little things and rebounding ability.
"Elisha hustles all the time, gets to loose balls she has no business getting to because she plays so hard," Quirk said.
Senior Sarah Smith, who Quirk complimented on having improved her scoring abilities.
Quirk is also high on freshman guard Shurae Lekandous, who will see quality time.
Sophomore Mary Garloch is an adept shooter and impressive defender, who will be called upon to take away the opposing team's top scorer. Ariann Maupin will also see quality minutes off the bench.
"We're probably nine deep," Quirk said. "I feel good playing all nine of those girls. With the way we're going to play, we're going to need to sub people and I feel good about it. We're not going to lose that much when we go to our bench."
Ticketed primarily for jayvee duty are: Taylor Stoner, Sara Doddrill, Summer Baker, Khiah Kimbro, Kelsie Moser, Katey Mellott, Tara Duffy and Christina Iwerson.
Bellaire is lining up against the identical schedule it faced last season. Along with 14 Buckeye 8 games and two openings for the OVAC Tournament, the Lady Reds will tangle with Barnesville, Bridgeport and St. John. Actually, Bellaire opens the season Monday at Barnesville.
"We're not wishing the season away, but we're definitely excited to get started," Quirk said. "We'll be ready when it's time to start. One of the problems we've had in the past that we can't afford to have again is we must realize that every game matters. In the past, we've taken some teams for granted and then lost to them, but I think we've learned our lesson."
Quirk's coaching staff includes her husband, Adam, a former St. Clairsville High and Ohio Northern athletic standout. Returning to serve as assistants are Bethany Steele and Amanda Collins.