The 2010-11 T.K. Gorman basketball team dealt with the loss of seven seniors by going undefeated in TAPPS 2-4A.
This time around, the Lady Crusaders have to deal with something completely different: expectations.
Last year’s Gorman squad may have surprised its district, but with all but one player back, no one will be overlooking the Lady Crusaders this time around.
“Going undefeated last year … we have a target on our back,” said junior Michelle Obach, the reigning district MVP. “Everyone wants to bring down Gorman.”
The Lady Crusaders program ascended to the top of its district during a two-year stint under coach Larry Hargett.
After the core of that team graduated, Katie Robertson took over as coach. With a new nucleus of players, she built upon prior success and did something Hargett’s teams were unable to accomplish with the flawless league run.
This year the team has its sights set on another first: winning state.
“Last year I feel like we let the underdog mentality kind of get to us sometimes and we were maybe scared,” junior Susannah Williams said. “I think this year that’s out of the picture. We’re not underdogs anymore. We’re going to do it and we can do it.”
Gorman will again be led by Obach, who reached 1,000 career points last February. Obach averaged 18.9 points during the regular season last year to go with 2.6 assists and 3.4 steals.
“With the work she put in this summer, I feel like she’s coming back even stronger,” Robertson said.
Senior Cori Jo Navarro returns after being named TAPPS 2-4A defensive player of the year. She averaged 7.2 points, 3.6 assists and 3.0 steals per game.
Williams, a post, was a first-team all-district selection with Obach and Navarro. Williams and junior forward Danielle Smith combined to average 11 rebounds a game.
“I don’t think people will underestimate us as much as they did last year, which means teams will go harder on us,” Williams said. “But I think we can handle it.”
Graduated senior Molly Allare is the lone Lady Crusader not returning, but junior Allie Buzbee and sophomore Brooke Lee are expected to step right in.
“I think people from last year that were on the bench more are going to step up,” Obach said.
With talent and depth no issue, Robertson said she wants to make sure her team doesn’t concentrate on the hype and expectations.
“I think they feel a little bit of pressure to live up to what we did last year,” Robertson said. “But at the same time it’s a balance of living up to that pressure and still being the underdog. If we’re not having fun, I feel like we’re not going to get far.”
Fun isn’t much of a problem with this group. The juniors have been playing — and winning — with Robertson since eighth grade.
“We’re older and have more experience,” Smith said. “We have better chemistry with each other I feel like. We all like each other on and off the court.”
Despite all the expectations of a team that hopes to compete for a state title, the Lady Crusaders still have that underdog spirit driving them to get better.
“I think our goal is to still work just as hard as we did last year,” Navarro said. “We still want to have that underdog mentality and keep fighting throughout the game.”