LAKE TWP. Having a team with just one senior and two juniors on the roster would make for a difficult season for most any high school girls basketball team.
Having that roster composition in the Federal League ... well, let's just say that it increases the degree of difficulty several more degrees. Such is life for the Lake Blue Streaks this season, a fact that has presented head coach Brian DeLap and his squad with challenges that an unusually unforgiving schedule has compounded.
"We're a really young team ... we have one senior, two juniors, six sophomores and two freshmen who dress for us," DeLap said. "We've had a few kids who have stepped up and a lot of girls are playing well, but we're not seeing the results just yet."
The results so far are a 4-7 record entering this week and a 1-5 mark in Federal League play. Anyone who has been around the local high school basketball scene for more than a season or two knows that despite having just seven teams, the Federal League is typically among the most difficult in Ohio and had routinely sent the likes of Canton McKinley, Hoover and GlenOak to the state tournament over the past two decades, with Jackson also making multiple regional tournament runs.
This season is no exception, with Jackson ranked in the top 10 in the state this week and GlenOak just a few spots out of the top 10. Suffice it to say that life hasn't been easy for Lake – or anyone else in the league.
And that's before you take into account that the Blue Streaks have played nine of their first 11 games on the road.
"The league is always good and it's really good again this year," DeLap said. "With 10 of our first 12 games away, it's been more difficult because you always have that comfort level in your own gym and being a younger team, I think that affects us."
The good news on the schedule front is that after another road test at McKinley, the schedule becomes a bit more favorable and the Blue Streaks will get to play a few in a row at home.
Playing at home should be a mental boost for a team counting on numerous underclassmen to contribute. The rotation has been seven players deep for the most part this season, but over the course of a year, injuries typically force teams to delve deeper into their bench, so seeing their younger players develop would be a welcome sight for the Blue Streaks.
Junior Abby Stevens and sophomore forward Kiley Dyrlund have led the way, with Stephens averaging 13.0 points per game and Dyrlund close behind at 10.8 points per contest. The duo has provided much of the scoring punch, with Dyrlund the team's top 3-point shooter at 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.
The team's overall shooting numbers are the one area DeLap points to when it comes to notching more wins the rest of the way.
"Overall, we've had some shooting woes. We're shooting about 22 percent on threes and 53 percent from the foul line and both of those are numbers we need to improve," DeLap said.
Playing more at home, where the rims and sight lines are more familiar, could offer some help in upping those percentages. So could the freshmen and sophomores on the team getting more comfortable at the varsity level and coming up alongside Stephens, fellow junior Elliana Begue and senior Jessica LeBeau, boosting the Blue Streaks' depth.
They'll play each league foe at least one more time this season, with the potential for seeing a Federal League rival in the postseason as well since virtually the entire sectional and district tournament bracket is a quasi-Federal League tournament, with a few other local schools mixed in.
With Jackson, GlenOak and Hoover among its remaining games, Lake is well aware of the level of play it will take to compete in and win those contests. "You have to play well to win every game in our league. You can't be off or have a bad night and win," DeLap said.
Minimizing those off nights and being more consistent is a common struggle for young teams and maintaining a high level of play will be one of the focal points for Lake the rest of the way.
How many wins that adds to the Blue Streaks total isn't certain, but growth is the buzz word for the next few weeks as Lake finds its way in an unforgiving league that once again appears to have multiple contenders for deep tournament runs and as a result, no off nights regardless of the challenges facing any of its teams.