By Ellen Oliver
The Nashoba Chieftains are 13-2, undefeated in their league. “We’re happy,” said Coach Beth McNamara. “I hope we keep it up. It’s hard for the other team to defend all of our kids.” Although she’s happy with success, the coach doesn’t feel like she’s had her whole team in good working order all season. “We had a couple kids injured, a lot of sickness, flu, strep throat; kids were out sick for two or three days. We’ve struggled with that a bit.”
McNamara said the challenges have not just been on the court, but during practice, too. “It’s tough to practice when so many kids are sick.
We’ve had only six kids at practice sometimes. We’ve taken kids from jv. The kids who are there are working hard,” she said. “For the first time in a long time, we had a tough practice. It felt good, but we were tired.”
With players on and off the infirmary list, McNamara said she’s had a chance to see how the girls react with new combinations of players and under new circumstances. “Somebody always steps up. Someone might score five points on Tuesday then score 15 on Friday.”
The coach said it comes down to trust in whoever is on the court. “The kids are confident in each other. Everyone has had their game,” said McNamara. “They are willing to put in the work.” Sophomore forward Erin Cressman, who has been battling a hamstring injury, was quick to praise her teammates, “We’ve had people step up, fill in. Nicole [Boucher] has really improved and Nikkiah [Snoddy] stepped up a lot.”
With no seniors again this year, Coach McNamara said she’s seen great games from the team’s foundation players like sophomore Cressman who has double doubled in several games and junior Cecilia Burke, who has also spent time battling illness. The coach said sophomore Snoddy’s rebounds during the Westboro game sparked the team. Fellow sophomore Kelly Poole had eight assists and five steals to topple Westboro 75-50 for the second time this season.
It’s that competitive spirit that propels the team toward their goals, the first of which they are close to achieving. “Last year we were co-league champions with Groton-Dunstable. This year we want to win outright. We don’t want to share it,” said McNamara. “We don’t sit and talk about it, everyone just kind of knows.”
Cressman said part of the game plan for reaching their goals is to fine-tune their defensive weapons. “We’ve been working on defense, different kinds, mixing it up versus different teams. By mixing it up, we can put pressure on the other team,” she said.
Although the team is maintaining a game-by-game mentality for the remainder of the season, memories of those two
losses haven’t been erased, especially the 40 point loss (66-27) to Tyngsboro. Tyngsboro defeated Nashoba last year in the District finals and there’s a good chance the Chieftains would run into the undefeated Tyngsboro Tigers again on the quest for greater glory. “The Tyngsboro loss didn’t leave us with a good feeling,” said the coach.
The players feel the same. When asked what keeps the team motivated, Cressman immediately responded, “That big loss to Tyngsboro. To win districts we know we have to beat them,” said Cressman. “That was an awful game, the worst game. We know we can beat them.”
“I’m glad we played them in the regular season,” said the coach. “They shoot so well, they’re a very good team. We know we need a different game plan against them. We totally know we can beat them. We can compete with anybody in Central Mass.”
Coach McNamara said she believes in this group of girls because of their intensity and competitive focus. “These girls are real competitors. They are playing hard, they all are. When you see your teammates working that hard, you love them.”
For more images from the Nashoba/Westboro game visit: http://daisydesignphotos.