After back-to-back losing seasons, Lakeview girls' basketball coach Don Bussler is hoping to end that trend and get back to the winning ways Spartan basketball has been known for under the coach.
If he is going to do that, he will have to do it with a young squad in what has become a very tough conference in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East Division.
"Two years ago we won seven games and last year we won nine games, so we are moving back in the right direction," Bussler said. "Looking at our tough schedule, we'd still like to win more than nine games this year and if we do, that would be something we could and would be proud of."
The youth on the team could still be a challenge in allowing Lakeview to get above the .500 mark this season. However, the Spartans are looking at ways to keep that from holding their progress back.
"Our focus is to be in better shape this year and have a better basketball IQ," Bussler said. "If there is a talent gap between us and some of the teams on our schedule, we think we can close that gap by doing those things."
The Lakeview backcourt did have the experience of playing a lot of minutes last season, but they were doing it as very young players.
Kirby Homer is expected to be at one guard this season after playing on varsity as a freshman last year. And at another guard will be MacKenzie Wilcox, a junior, who was forced to play a lot of minutes last season as a first-year sophomore last year.
"They are young players that we need to be better this year. They do have 21 games of varsity experience and that will help their youth. But the quicker they can get to the level we need them, the better we will be," Bussler said.
Another guard that could see playing time right away is first-year varsity player in Stephanie Niemann.
In the front court, Lakeview will look to varsity returner Madison Olsen and third-year varsity player Danyelle Jones. Giving the Spartans depth in the front court will be first-year post player Casey Looper.
"In the post, Casey Looper could be a wild card for us. She is a terrific post player and very athletic, but she doesn't have that experience yet," Bussler said. "And we are still expecting good things from Danyelle Jones. We know the potential is there, just waiting for the light to pop on this year."
Other returning varsity players that could give Lakeview depth include Brittney Kimball and Lindsey Martin.
Lakeview will be looking to get to the top half of the division. The SMAC East has been won for two years straight by Harper Creek. But the SMAC East is also deep, after adding Gull Lake last season, it also includes Battle Creek Central, Marshall, Coldwater, Sturgis and Loy Norrix.
"Where will be in the pack in the league? Most people are picking us somewhere in the middle," Bussler said. "We are hoping to surprise some people and climb a little higher."