It doesn’t take much effort to find a priority for the Olentangy girls basketball team. It’s written on the back of their practice uniforms.
So, why is defense so important to new coach Kate Cummings?
“Defense – you can control,” she said. “It’s always a mainstay … no matter what happens on offense. You can keep yourself in a game and make yourself competitive if you play solid defense, rebound and take care of the basketball. If you can do those three things, anything else can happen.”
Cummings comes to Olentangy with an impressive resume with stints at the college level at Ohio Dominican and Findlay where she amassed a 311-231 record over 18 seasons before stepping away in 2013.
She went from one extreme to the other after leaving the college ranks. She’s coached fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade girls basketball in the Olentangy Youth Athletic Association before coaching seventh-grade ball at Shanahan Middle School last season.
“It’s been a lot of fun and a great learning experience for me coaching different levels,” Cummings said. “To me – it felt like a natural fit because I already had a relationship with the kids and the community.
“My goal is to come in and help. I just want to make the players better and I want to bring the program back on the map in the sense of energy and excitement.”
Cummings takes over for Mike Daniels, who went 22-25 in two seasons.
“It’s just a different atmosphere that I think we all enjoy,” senior Lauren Tarpey said. “I feel like we’re more of a unit now because Coach makes us do everything together. If one of us messes up – we all mess up.”
Tarpey was a role player in 21 games last season, but should see an increase in responsibility this year.
Cummings has the unique opportunity to coach her daughter Bailey, who is entering her junior season.
“It’s challenging – probably for both of us,” Cummings said. “From a mom-perspective – it’s awesome to be able to spend time with your kid, teach your kid and help her grow. But she’s always going to be under a microscope.”
Bailey is one of four players who saw action at the varsity level last season, playing in 22 games.
“We lost all of our juniors (to Berlin) except for Bailey Cummings,” Tarpey said. “It creates a fresh start. Because of the split – a lot of people think we might not be that good. But we’re committed to proving them wrong.”
Sophomore Meg Spohn, who highlighted the season with a half-court buzzer beating three-pointer to beat Teays Valley in the first round of the district tournament, returns at guard.
Sophomore Dani Beidelman made the jump to varsity at the end of last season. Her sisters Megan and Rachel also went through the program. Megan is the first head coach at Berlin.
Olivia Margolies is a familiar name that makes her return to basketball one last time for her senior season. She, along with sister Emily, are signed to play volleyball at Ohio University next fall.
Margolies averaged 11.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots in 19 games as a sophomore.
Senior Olivia Corley, sophomores Kennedie Doup and Helena Ronnebaum and freshman Bridget Stafford are newcomers to the varsity level.
Olentangy opens against Miami East in the opening round of the Skeeter Classic Friday at 5 p.m. and hosts either Urbana or Mechanicsburg the following day.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at [email protected]