GREEN  A youth movement has injected a spark into the Green girls basketball program and the result has been a 6-1 start that has the Bulldogs feeling optimistic as they head toward the new year.

With freshman point guard Sidney Pierce and sophomore forward Marissa Berlin playing big roles, the Bulldogs have posted a series of solid wins and won their first six contests before falling to Federal League leader Canton McKinley last Friday in a rare doubleheader with the boys team.

Head coach Tracy Miller liked the way his team got out of the gate and noted that while the first six wins came mainly in contests in which his team was favored, there was one especially nice win in the mix.

"With us starting off 6-0, obviously most people expected us to beat the teams we did, and we caught Hoover on a day when they were missing one of their key players," Miller said.

The win over Hoover, even with the Vikings battling injuries, was a potent addition to the winning streak because the Vikings are annually one of the contenders for the league title. Getting a league win is difficult on any night in the Federal League and for Green, it came with Pierce and Berlin slotting in alongside a solid group of veterans to give Green a good mix of youth and experienced.

"The return of Jenna Trainer coming off an injury and having Savanna Maynard doing the job she’s doing has been great," Miller said. "Sidney Pierce at point guard is seeing the floor and distributing the ball well and Marissa Berlin is a 6-foot-3 post player who has averaged a double-double the past few games."

Playing winnable non-league games was a priority when Miller and athletic director Erich Muzi set up the schedule, with the thinking being to generate momentum early in the season in the hopes of sending the Bulldogs into league play with more confidence.

The loss to McKinley underscored the fact that confidence alone is only part of the equation, bur Green will get another shot at McKinley this season and still has nearly two-thirds of its schedule left to play.

As for its two young standouts, Green is hopeful that they can mix their ability and energy with experience and become rotation staples who come up big in pressure spots as the year wears on.

Miller noted that before the year began, he had conversations with Pierce and Berlin about what the team needed from them.

"I sat down and talked to both of them. I told them they would be key parts of our season this year and that they’re gonna make mistakes, but they can’t put head down and pout about it," Miller said. "They both understand that and our senior leadership with Jenna and Savannah have been great about helping them out."

Making mistakes is a given for any player at any level, but for freshmen and sophomores playing in what Miller deemed "the toughest league in Ohio," the level of play can be a lot to adjust to for underclassmen. Through the first round of league play, whether it’s Green’s win over Hoover, GlenOak’s road win over Jackson or any of several other surprising results, the outcomes have backed up the idea that anyone is vulnerable on a given night in the seven-team league.

"I don’t care if you’re number one, number one you can always be beat by number seven," Miller said. "We have very good coaches and players with a lot of talent, so you just have to go game by game, scout teams and not look past teams because if you do, you’re going to lose games not supposed to."

So far, Green has been able to keep its focus well enough to lay the foundation for a winning campaign. Now, they have to keep their young players on the right path and the rest of the squad focused in order to finish as well as they’ve started.

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