Harrison Central bids to continue winning ways
CADIZ – The Harrison Central girls enjoyed a banner season last winter.
Expect more of the same this year for the Lady Huskies.
Veteran head coach Nick Yourkovich guided his charges to a sparkling 16-6 mark last season. The Huskies, however, fell to Sandy Valley in the sectional tournament on the home boards.
The former Martins Ferry athletic standout, who was named district coach-of-the-year last season, must replace three players lost via graduation but a solid cast is back in the fold.
“The end to last season was tough to swallow because that group was so fun to be around and worked their butts off from Day 1 to the end of the year. They truly cared about each other and played great as a unit. I would have loved for them to experience competing further in the tournament,” Yourkovich noted. “We are going to miss the leadership that our seniors brought on a consistent basis. They really were great examples for our younger girls.
“With that being said, we have a good deal of experience coming back that were in a bunch of close games. My hope is that they understand how fine of a line there is with our team,” he continued. “We can’t take any day for granted and must get the best out of each other each and every day for us to be the best version of us.”
Yourkovich will look to build on last year’s success on the strength of a solid returning cast, including one prime-timer.
“We return three starters. One will be a four-year starter and the two others will be starting for the third consecutive year,” Yourkovich offered. “These girls will be looked upon to set the tone for the rest of the team every day. And thus far, they have done a tremendous job getting everyone up to speed.”
McKayla Dunkle is the team’s lone senior, and she is a 6-1 dandy.
The multi-talented post averaged 17.8 points and 11 rebounds per game last winter. She earned second-team All-Ohio honors and first-team Eastern District plaudits.
“McKayla has been a star for us for the past two seasons and I don’t expect this year to be any different. She has worked extremely hard to improve all aspects of her game, especially on the defensive side,” Yourkovich said. “I’m really looking forward to watching her take the next step in her development in her senior season. She has already meant a ton to this program, and I’m excited for her senior season.”
Harrison Central’s offense is directed by a 5-3 junior stalwart in Maddy Butler. She enters the campaign as a three-year starter.
“Maddy has gotten more comfortable each and every year. She is one of the fiercest competitors that I have ever coached, and that energy definitely rubs off on her teammates,” Yourkovich stated. “She is a catalyst for everything we do offensively and defensively. We are looking for more consistent offensive production from her this year, something she is definitely capable of.”
The other guard is also a seasoned veteran in 5-6 junior Mackenzie Harbold.
“Kenz will also be a three-year starter for us this year, and she has probably improved more than anyone on our roster from last season. She has spent a lot of time in the gym, and it is really showing in her attitude and confidence,” Yourkovich said.
Sophomore Angi Ferri (5-6) is in the hunt for another starting guard spot.
“Angi is in the mix for a starting spot after a very successful freshman season at the jayvee level. She has great vision on the court, which has added more of a transition aspect to our offense,” Yourkovich said. “Angi has a lot of potential to really help us the next three years, but our goal is to get her comfortable with her role in our system.”
Yourkovich has high hopes for 6-0 junior forward Cali Lewis.
Two others juniors are bidding for starting duty. Kayln Ledger is a 5-8 junior forward while Emma Fischer is a 5-5 junior guard.
Also vying for varsity minutes, while targeted for jayvee duty, are sophomore Ava Carson and freshmen Amilliah Cogar, Taylor Nemeth, Kaily Banal, Kendal Hercules and Maddie Sedgmer.
Sophomore Isabel Yeager has been sidelined due to a season ending injury.
“To be successful, we are going to need several players to take a bigger role in our offense and become more aggressive on that side of the ball. The coaching staff has been pushing these girls, some with limited varsity experience, to get out of their comfort zones and really be more assertive offensively,” Yourkovich said.
Tusky Valley is new to the Huskies’ schedule, as part of the Women’s Health Classic sponsored by WVU Medicine .
Yourkovich’s staff includes Chace Smith and Kara Dunfee, former point guard from Harrison Central’s OVAC championship team.