ST. CHARLES – With an important week of DuKane Conference play ahead, St. Charles East junior guard Lexi DiOrio knows the Saints don’t have any “free games” that will be handed to them.
St. Charles East (7-8, 1-3) has played a bit uneven in conference. Geneva and Wheaton North, with a combined record of 25-10 record, loom ahead in consecutive games.
“Both Geneva and Wheaton North are extremely solid teams,” DiOrio said. “Our conference is stacked…It’s going to come down to who wants it more, and who shows up to play that night.
“We know our strengths as a team, yet also our weaknesses, and I think if we show up with a winning attitude, the games can go either way.”
The Saints went 2-2 over the holidays at the Montini Christmas Classic. The losses came against Class 3A No. 1-ranked Nazareth and to York.
“We played some very tough teams,” DiOrio said. “Naz will definitely be going to state and [is] such a solid team all around. The tournament overall showed us our weaknesses and what we need to work on.”
The Saints have arguably, though, made strides since the beginning of the year following a flurry of graduations of top performers from last year.
“We dropped some games that were very attainable and I know we could have won, even though the scores wouldn’t have seemed like that,” DiOrio said. “I think lack of experience at this level, we graduated some key players, and this season, we are tying to fill those roles. Not being able to close games how we have done in the past [is another area of interest].”
Senior teammate Krissy Erickson has been a constant for the Saints.
“Erickson is a player that knows her role and does the dirty work,” DiOrio said. “She never complains and will give 100% effort all the time. She comes in off the bench and immediately has like four rebounds, despite her size, which motivates myself to grab some boards as well.”
Lexi Schueler believes the Knights have “definitely come a long way since the beginning of the season.”
Entering Tuesday, Kaneland sits at 8-10 and went 1-2 at the Oswego Panther Holiday Shootout following the holidays.
“Obviously, we would have preferred a different outcome from the holiday tournament, and my teammates and I view those all as winnable games,” Schueler said. “Because of that, I think we have been working harder and more focused in practice. And, [we are] continuously working to string together some wins and get our groove back.”
“We are a very young and undersized team, so having this time to build chemistry with each other has been huge,” Schueler said. “It even lead us to a huge win against Sycamore [on Dec. 7], which hasn’t been done by Kaneland in years. That being said, we are learning to not let ourselves drop down from such a high like that game. We must build on top of those games and keep playing our best basketball heading into the second half of the season.”
To Schueler, Kailey Plank and Kendra Brown have been two key parts to the season’s success so far.
“Plank, a senior, has stepped up in many ways,” Schueler said. “She has been able to chip in on scoring in all of our games and continues to hustle all the time. As for Kendra, having an outside shooter like her has helped tremendously in stretching out the defense and creating room for others. Everyone else is also contributing within their roles, and hustle and effort is never a question for us.”
“On top of this, the best thing for this team this season has been our coaching staff,” Schueler continued. “They have put countless hours in for this team and program. They have been so supportive towards everyone and have made this season so much fun.”
St. Charles North
If she gets the chance, St. Charles North junior combo guard/forward Reagan Sipla finds time to watch the nation’s best women’s basketball players like Iowa’s Caitlin Clark or UConn’s Paige Bueckers, for example.
It allows her to work on expanding and improving her own game.
“I would say I definitely watch them, but also watch other teams and players in general to learn from players who have a similar game to mine,” Sipla said. “One of the main things I watch are the things that are successful for them offensively and defensively, but also evaluating how things could be different.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle