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Sandy welcomes former coach back into the fold

Ryan Alexander returns to the girls basketball sidelines for 2013-14


No one ever knows for sure how a team will respond when a new coach takes the helm. Sometimes the players buy into the new coach’s philosophy right away, and sometimes it takes a while. A team’s success is often dictated by how fast that happens, and if that holds true for the Sandy girls’ basketball squad, the Pioneers are headed for a turnaround season under new coach Ryan Alexander.

“The girls’ attitude has been solid to start the season,” Alexander said. “They appreciate and respect our coaching staff, and they have been doing a good job working on our new and different concepts.”

The most drastic change implemented by Alexander thus far has been his up-tempo approach to the game. He plans for the Pioneers to get out and run often this season, which will allow them to create opportunities instead of waiting for them to come. It has taken some getting used to, particularly for some of the older players, but they have accepted it without complaint.

Alexander has used the first few weeks of practice to prepare his team for the fast-pace games to come. Though the Pioneers haven’t protested verbally, their aching muscles have suggested that getting into good enough shape to run up and down the court for a full game is a work in progress.

“The style has been a change for them. I expect them to catch onto things faster and play the game quicker than in the past,” Alexander said. “I believe in conditioning through our play, not just getting on the line and running. We haven't quite been able to finish our practices as hard and fast as we have started. However, I am seeing it get better. Hopefully by January our practices will be fast and efficient from start to finish.”

If Sandy stays on the path it’s on, it will be one of the more well-conditioned teams in the Northwest Oregon Conference. That extra bit of endurance could prove crucial late in games, and could make a big difference in close games. Last season, Sandy went 0-5 in games decided by six points or fewer, so having a reserve of energy at the end will be essential to buck that trend.

Sandy will also be one of the most experienced teams in the league. The Pioneers did not have a single senior on the team last year, so everyone on the team is a returner, and most of them have logged significant varsity minutes.

Leading the group are juniors Raquel Pellecer and Molly Nutt. Pellecer made the all-league second team, and Nutt earned honorable mention honors last year. Nutt will work from the point this season to anchor the back court, while Pellecer and senior Dalen Richardson will provide the Pioneers with stability on the wings and in the post.

Because so many players on the team are experienced, the responsibility to carry the load will not rest solely on the shoulders of Pellecer, Nutt, Richardson or anyone else. If the Pioneers are going to improve upon last season’s 4-19 record, it will truly be a team effort.

“I am not relying on just a couple players from last year. I expect every player to contribute, from the JV-varsity swing player to our starting unit. Each player has a job to do, and those jobs and players are all vital to our success,” Alexander said. “My expectations for the team are simple – play harder and faster, play each day to get better and play as a team. Doing those things will give us more success than they have had in the past few years.”

Sandy kicks off the season by hosting a four-team tournament (David Douglas, Franklin, Hood River) on Friday and Saturday. The Pioneers open the tourney against Hood River on Friday at 7:15 p.m.