For the first time in four years, Gila Ridge girls basketball coach David Schultz won't have Summer Ehrig on his team.
Ehrig, a two-time Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Girls Basketball Player of the Year, is playing softball for Arizona Western and left a huge hole on the Hawks' basketball team — not to mention the loss of both Destiny Dilworth and Melanie Alameda.
“I think the kids have realized that they moved on. We moved on. I think they're preparing themselves,” Schultz said. “I don't think I've heard them talk about it once, to be honest. Which is good, because they need to understand that everyone is going to look at us and think how are they going to react?”
Returning as the leaders for the Hawks are senior post Mariah Carter and senior wing Kaelin Fox.
“We have to push each other because we can't look at Summer anymore. We have to do it ourselves,” said Carter, who is the returning leader for points per game (12.2) for the Hawks.
“I think a lot of the pressure comes from being a senior, not the scoring aspect of it,” Fox said. “Last year Summer was our main scorer and a lot of the attention was on her, but now I think it'll even out and we'll all contribute.”
Schultz is optimistic about the offense even with the loss of Ehrig, who led the team in points (15.6) and assists (4.1) last season. During the start of the season last year, the Hawks' younger players frequently stood by and watched Ehrig try to do everything herself. But during the second half of the season, they were playing more as a team and ended up winning eight of their final nine games.
“Any coach is kidding themselves when they say (losing a star player) is a blessing and they're going to be better off. No, the kid in the program was a great teammate, a great individual, made her teammates better,” Schultz said of Ehrig. “But you could see it in the beginning of the year, our younger kids were just watching her and they weren't doing what they should be doing on the court.”
Schultz plans to start the year with sophomore Camille Ochoa, sophomore Lieren Hefner and freshman Nadine Gil as possible candidates to fill the void at point guard. With so much youth at the position, Schultz is expecting some growing pains.
“Those first couple games they'll be some things they don't want to see or that I don't want them to do, but they'll move on,” he said. “They're capable athletes, capable kids. They're going to do well.”
“Our young players have adapted really quickly,” Fox said. “They played summer ball for us and they're very mature for their age.”
The loss of Ehrig means that more attention will be on Carter as the Hawks' top scorer. Schultz feels the added pressure won't matter much for Carter, who scored more than 20 points five times last season — including 25 at Yuma High.
“I think she'll be able to handle that pretty well because she's a really good scorer and can fill it up now and again,” Schultz said.
For Fox, not having Ehrig on the team any longer means a little more. The two were longtime friends and teammates — but she adds that the Hawks should be just fine without her.
“It feels a lot different because I'm best friends with her and we've been on teams together since we were probably 10 years old,” Fox said. “But we're a young team but we're staying strong and I think we'll have a good year.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.