Blazer girls hope to step to next level

The Cumberland Valley Christian Blazers are looking to reach the next step as they open their Mason-Dixon Christian Conference girls basketball schedule Friday evening at home against Heritage Academy.

The Blazers last year were 23-9, finished third in the MDCC regular season, and were runners-up in the NCSAA tournament in Ohio.

The next step, of course, would be winning the MDCC championship, their first since 2008, when Miranda Payne, Franklin County’s all-time leading scorer, was a senior.

The Blazers have plenty of firepower to help them reach their goal. Key returning players are juniors Amber Yanosik, a first-team MDCC all-star; Laurel Reitz, second-team all-MDCC; Mollee Stake, MDCC all-tournament selection; and Sarah Vandersleen, who averaged 2.1 blocks and 5.5 rebounds per game.

The Blazers opened their season last week with a lopsided victory at Carlisle Christian.

Here are some reflections on the season from coach Dylan Ward:

  • “We are truly approaching this season with a ‘one day at a time approach.’ I feel that the girls are very much aware of the current situation we are facing and they just want to play basketball. They have come together and wanted to get better since our loss in the NCSAA Championship Game. I can honestly say that each of these athletes has gotten better in the offseason, which not many coaches can say due to the pandemic. They each took the initiative on their own to improve their overall play, and our mindset is very focused on making the MDCC championship game.”
  • “We are looking to replace four seniors who meant a tremendous amount to the program. Kyleigh Teal was a 1,200-point scorer for her career, and Jalen Moats will be tough to replace on the defensive side of the ball as well as rebounding. Yet we are returning some very talented players.”
  • “Senior Mackenzie Sites will be looking to add a presence defensively as well as clean up the rebounding area. Junior Mollee Stake will no longer be the sixth man and will be our best on-ball defender. Mollee is one of the best defenders in the MDCC, and she will be tasked to guard the other team’s best player every game. Mollee has really improved her offensive game as well and is looking to be that third option.”
  • “Junior Sarah Vandersleen will be our rim protector. Last year she averaged 2.1 blocks per game, which is really incredible. Sarah has improved her post play, and I am looking to see what the next step she takes in her overall game.”
  • “Junior Amber Yanosik is one of the league’s best overall players as well as one of the best players in our area for sure. She is looking to score her 1,000th point this season as a junior, and I firmly believe that she will have a lot to do with our success this season. Amber has been motivated since our loss out in the NCSAA championship game, and you can tell that she keeps getting better and better.”
  • “Lastly, junior Laurel Reitz will be once again our ‘Energizer Bunny.’ She makes hustle plays all over the floor and has improved her decision-making abilities as a point guard. Laurel can easily create and force turnovers for our team. She also does a great job at finishing at the rim. Laurel got hurt in our regular-season finale last season, and not having her for the playoffs was very difficult to overcome. She has been practicing with an extra focus this preseason, and it has been great to see her back on the floor being a leader.”
  • “We have a lot of experience coming back with three starters returning as well as our sixth man. We are going to have some great bench depth with Emmalyn Hott leading the charge as well as newcomer Brylee Moats. I am looking forward to seeing Emmalyn play this season; she is another player who took her play to another level at the end of last season, and it will be great to find that key role for her to develop and be a contributor. Brylee Moats will add another post-player to the team. Brylee is ‘gamer’ for sure. She is very competitive and I like to see her push our team in practice. We also have some great freshmen looking to contribute in key areas including rebounding and guard play: Alexis Coffey, Julia Waltz and Hannah Vandersleen.”
  • “Overall, we have had a great preseason and are now looking to improve on a program-best 23 wins from last season. It’s very much up in the air right now as to if we are going to have a ‘normal’ season, but I like our approach so far. We have been focused and want to play anybody that we can. I think that we have some great players this season, and my goal is that we can at least play some games to showcase this team.”