After the departure of the majority of rotation players from last season’s undefeated Destrehan Ladycats state championship team, a rebuilding campaign was all but inevitable.
Still, first-year head coach Meagan Stock sees her team growing and improving as the season rolls along and is optimistic these Wildcats can make a splash once their District 7-5A schedule kicks off against archrival Hahnville on Jan. 3. While Destrehan entered the week with a record of 2-9, the team has faced strong competition that includes three defending state champions from a season ago.
“I think those games are going to make us better when we get into district play,” said Stock, an assistant coach on last season’s championship squad. “Those (former state champions) have had a lot of returners. We’ve been really tested early on.”
It’s been a reshaping process from the ground up for a program that in almost every way was coming off of a dream season led by Louisiana Player of the Year and current Baylor freshman Cara Ursin. This year’s team is led by a senior class Stock said has taken their leadership roles to heart, anchored by team captains Kayla Davis, a forward, and Marshay Stevenson, a guard.
“They’re definitely showing those leadership qualities,” said Stock. “They’re taking on a major, major role. Kayla’s the mom on our team. She keeps things where they need to be and makes sure everyone stays under control. Marshay brings some great leadership qualities as well. She’s in the army and definitely brings that discipline and demands that from her teammates. She lets people know where they need to be in this or that situation, a vocal leader for sure.”
The team has had to cope with the loss of starting point guard Darielle Richard to an ankle injury — she has been sidelined since an early season tournament at Ursuline. Stock was hoping to have her return this week, but in her stead Deja Sanchez has emerged and shown versatility in taking to the point guard role for the first time.
“She’s never really played the point before, but she’s handled the job very, very well,” Stock said. “I think she surprised herself with how well she’s played in that spot. That’s happened a bit for us with so many of our players stepping into completely new roles.”
She said the biggest improvement the team has made so far has come in the area of fundamentals, particularly with regard to the team’s passing.
“Early on, it was kind of three flies in,” Stock quipped. “Now, we’re making much better choices and making a lot of progress. A lot comes down to adjusting to a different system. We’re used to doing things one way, so now it’s a matter of getting back to that place where what you’re doing is second nature. That’s what allows you to play fast and more confident.”
The Ladycats opened the season with a decisive victory over Grace King, suffered losses in their next six games before bouncing back with a 56-53 win over McMain. Stock said she was proud of the fight her players showed down the stretch.