By Chris Parker
Sparta has been one of the area’s fastest-rising programs over the last several years going from one win three years ago to 14 wins two years ago to 19 wins last year.
The Lady Trojans will look to keep that momentum up this year and contend for a district title.
“We have to continue to improve every day and every game. We have to learn from the mistakes we made as freshmen last year and improve on our turnovers from last year,” Sparta head coach Josh Loveland said. “When you play a fast pace, you are going to turn it over some, but if we can cut down and limit ours and force other teams to turn it over more we are going to be a hard team for anyone to beat.”
Sparta was young last year with six freshmen playing in at least 18 games.
Laney Humble was at the head of that freshman group averaging 20.6 points and 5 rebounds per game on her way to first-team all-conference honors. Humble also added in 3.7 assists and 2.6 steals per game. She will see time at both guard spots this year.
“She (Humble) had a lot of success last year because of the work that she puts in. She works extremely hard on a daily basis to be a great player and it shows every day,” Loveland said. “Her skillset has gotten better. She is going to be very consistent from three, and she will shoot a high percentage from the free throw line. The biggest growth I have seen in her that will have the biggest effect on our team is her attitude and her leadership ability. She wants to win, and doesn’t want anything to stand in the way of our success.”
Classmate Megan Brown is the team’s second-leading returning scorer after she averaged 6.3 points per game to go with 4.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.4 steals per game.
“(Megan Brown) is an incredible athlete. She plays multiple sports so she doesn’t concentrate on just one, but her presence is felt on both ends of the floor night in and night out,” Loveland said. “She is a great defender, great rebounder, and can score the ball.”
Sophomore post Natalie Wilks returns to the paint after she averaged 5.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game as a freshman.
“She (Wilks) is left-handed and good around the basket. She can also step out and handle the ball and add to our up-tempo pace of play. She will also be asked to score the ball more this year,” Loveland said.
Brynn Holt was the first player off the bench last year. She averaged 5.8 points and 3.2 rebounds as a freshman.
“Brynn can handle the ball well, gets to the rim well, and shoots the three really well. If she can limit her turnovers she will have a big impact for us immediately,” Loveland said.
Ashlyn and Brooklyn Roller both saw varsity time in their freshman years, and will see their roles expand this year. Both are quick defenders and strong shooters.
Juniors Aysha Fulton and Kaylee Case are the team’s only upperclassmen. They will be anchors for the squad, and will look to use their experience to help Sparta win.
Sparta has eight freshmen on the JV team that will look to compete every day with the varsity. Alivia Loveland, Amree Youngmon, Mya Fulton and Averi Leyland will all push to get varsity minutes.
Speed will be this team’s strength.
“We will speed teams up, play at a high pace, score a lot of points and hopefully win a lot of games,” Loveland said. “We are fast, and very athletic and we have a lot of kids who know the game very well.”
That goal of scoring a lot of points is off to a good start with the Lady Trojans already sitting at 2-0 with wins by margins of 90-11 and 80-25.
“I expect us to compete at a high level every night. I think we will have a lot of tough nights on our schedule, but I expect us to compete, and hopefully give ourselves a chance to win a conference and district championship,” Loveland said.