Photo by Ben Mitchell
DONNIE HERNEISEN, first year head coach for the HRV varsity girls basketball team, is looking forward to improving the basketball culture at the school, as well as the program itself, which has struggled for decades. The team will head out on an extended road trip, not returning home until Dec. 13, when they host Roosevelt. The first league contest of the season will be at home Jan. 20 against Pendleton.
As of Friday, December 2, 2016
For the HRV girls basketball program, there’s pretty much nowhere to go but up.
The perennially struggling team has been averaging about five wins a season over the past four years — none of which were against league opponents. Last year, the team finished with a 3-19 record and failed to make the postseason for the sixth season in a row.
Donnie Herneisen, in his first year as head coach of the team, is hoping to inject some new life into a program that has struggled for decades to find much success. Turning around a program with a past like that doesn’t happen overnight, and Herneisen is starting out with more manageable, short-term goals to get the team going for the 2016-17 season.
“First and foremost, we aren’t focusing on wins/losses and those kind of ‘outcome’ goals. We have a focus on process goals, doing the little things that it will take to achieve the desired outcomes,” he explained. “We talk about achieving team defensive goals, team offensive goals, and winning individual battles on the court. As (an Oregon) Duck fan, I’m a big believer in the ‘Win the Day’ mentality, but in basketball, we’ve taken that down to the ‘Win the Quarter’ and ‘Win this Possession’ mentality. If we take care of those goals, the wins should come.”
The players are on board with Herneisen’s plan as well.
“I’m really optimistic about the season. While we still haven’t had a lot of practices, the girls are improving every day. Attitudes and practice intensity are great, and the girls have high desire to move the program forward,” he added. “The big thing I’m looking forward to is improving the basketball culture in Hood River. These girls embody that change, and they are stepping up to the challenge.”
The Eagles started the season on Wednesday with a nonleague home game against Sandy. After leading much of the way throughout the first quarter and entering the second with an 8-6 lead, HRV’s shooting faltered in the middle of the game, with the Pioneers outscoring the Eagles 24-8. The home team saved their best eight minutes of play for the end, putting up 11 points to Sandy’s four in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit built in the second and third quarters, and HRV fell 37-27.
The shooting may have been shaky, but there were plenty of positives in the game too, as HRV appeared to have a size advantage and did a good job making the Pioneers work for every shot.
“Yeah, we struggled to get the ball to go through the hoop. That was really the only downside of last night’s game. We accomplished all of our defensive goals, but struggled with turnovers and shooting,” he said Thursday morning. “It was a pretty physical game in the paint, which is where we were getting most of our shots — as we intend. First-game jitters, and really not very many practice days so far. Overall, I like our intensity and our competitiveness. We’ve got the normal ‘early season, first year coaching staff’ problems to work out, but we’ll get there.”
Herneisen said the team will “lean heavily” on returning guard Emily Curtis, a sophomore, and returning post Lauren Orr, a junior. Curtis led the team in shooting Wednesday, scoring 11 points on 3-for-9 field-goal shooting and hitting 4-for-5 from the foul line. Orr collected a team-high eight rebounds and four steals. He added the team would look for contributions from sophomore guard Lizzie Weekly, who suffered a season-ending injury in last year’s opener and from junior wing Hannah McNerney. Seniors Ann Marie Goodman (post) and Abby Kinoshita (wing) also “bring varsity game experience that will be very valuable.”
HRV travels to a tournament this weekend in Madras and then travels to Heritage in Vancouver, Wash., on Tuesday and then Redmond Friday before finally returning home to host Roosevelt Dec. 13. Columbia River Conference games start Jan. 20 with a home game against Pendleton. Herneisen noted that the CRC was in a period of transition this year, as The Dalles was the only team that does not have a new head coach for the 2016-17 season.
The boys team started on Wednesday as well, traveling to Sandy, and losing 61-42. They were scheduled to host Redmond Friday night at 7 p.m (results not available at press time). The boys are also looking to reinvigorate their program under first-year coach Christopher Dirks; look for a preview to their season in the Wednesday edition.