A fairly humorous moment occurred at Villa Duchesne girls basketball practice recently, when head coach Jane Ellen Kuenzle tried to name all the players on her team off the top of her head.
The coach tried as best she could to remember everybody on the roster, and even named several players twice, but even a veteran coach like Kuenzle couldn't remember all the new names on her team without taking a look around Villa's beautiful Kenefick Gymnasium to remind her who was actually on the team this year.
"We have a lot of new girls up on varsity this year," Kuenzle said. "I think we've only got four girls coming back that have played for me before, and one of them was injured last year. So, this team is a whole lot different than last year."
Boy is that an understatement, as Villa has to replace seven seniors from a team that went 15-9 last season, including the three players that led the Saints in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, and minutes played last year.
For all intents and purposes, Villa is starting from scratch this season. So it really is no surprise that even the coach has trouble remembering just who the heck everybody is all the time.
"I have to look twice sometimes just to make sure," Kuenzle said. "I don't want to call anybody the wrong name or get on somebody and it be the wrong player. But that hasn't really been a problem. These girls work hard. We're all just trying to get better."
Two players that Kuenzle had no trouble remembering their names, and are expected to be the team leaders this year, are senior forwards Catherine Wagner and Alex Roth.
Those two represent Villa's only returning starters, and will have to carry the Saints through what might be some tough moments early in the year.
"They're both really great girls," Kuenzle said. "Catherine's been working really hard down in the post for us, and Alex is like the heart and energy of the team. She's just so positive, and she's all over the court. She makes my job easy sometimes."
Also back from last year, are seniors (G) Rachel Arnold, (F) Kristen Buehne, (C) Laura Collins, and (F) Brianna Smith.
New juniors on varsity this year include (G) Jasia Dickerson, (C/F) Morgan Gast, (C/F) Kendra Hercules, and (F) Sydney Miller.
"They're all going to play for us this year," Kuenzle said. "I'm going to put them all out there and just see what we've got.
"I'm not really concerned about what our record is early in the year. It's not like we have to impress the NCAA committee to get in the tournament. Everybody gets in. So our job is to get better and be the best team when can be when districts roll around."
Three new players on the Saints' varsity this year that Kuenzle and her senior leaders thought would contribute right away, as the sophomore trio the coach calls "The Triplets", (F) Brooke Carter, (G) Morgan Schlegel, and (G) Grace Lombardo.
"I think the three sophomores are going to be good players for us," Roth said. "They're all really good players, and they play well together."
Wagner added, "They've played together on the same team for a bunch of years, and you can kind of tell they have a real good chemistry together."
The key for Villa this year will be how long will it take for the real good chemistry to kick in for the whole team.
"Until (somebody) told me we were 15-9 last year, I didn't know that," Kuenzle said. "I really don't pay attention to what our record is. I just want us to be our best for districts."
The Saints will get their first test of the season on Tuesday, November 27, when the club plays its first game of the year, against Kirkwood High in the first round of the Northwest-Cedar Hill Tournament.
Villa will play a guaranteed three games at Northwest, with the final day of the event scheduled for Saturday, December 1.
After that, the Saints will play a road game at St. Francis Borgia High in Washington, MO, on Tuesday, December 4, before hosting their home opener against Metro League rival Principia High on Friday, December 7.
"I think we'll be ok, even with so many new girls on the team," Wagner said. "We all get along real good, and we kind of push each other every day in practice."
UPCOMING VILLA DUCHESNE SAINTS BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
November 27 vs. Kirkwood at Northwest High School 7 pm
November 29 at Northwest-Cedar Hill Tournament TBA
December 1 at Northwest-Cedar Hill Tournament TBA
December 4 at St. Francis Borgia 7 pm
December 7 vs. Principia 7 pm
December 11 at Duchesne 7 pm