In the first season under the leadership of Kelly Juhl, Atlantic girls basketball posted its highest winning total (7-14) since 2009 when the team won 10 games.
With an eye towards even more for the 2015-16 season, Juhl and the Trojans got to work right away at the conclusion of the school year in May.
Over a six-week stretch, Atlantic scrimmaged Wednesday mornings in Elk Horn against the Spartans, Adair-Casey, Logan-Magnolia and Treynor, and also participated in the Harlan Summer League versus such teams as the host Cyclones.
With quality competition that included teams coming off a wining season, state qualifiers, and a state champion, Juhl believes he put his team in the best position possible to get better in the months leading up to a new season.
“Any time we can play games and get repetitions at things, it helps when you’re playing teams that provide good competition,” Juhl said. “All the teams that we played had players that are very capable of doing a lot of good things.”
“If gave us a lot of good work and repetition on things we need to work on.”
Many of those repetitions have been individually based.
In his first full offseason with the team, Juhl can afford to focus his attention on a more personal level.
Whereas a year ago he was teaching the Trojans his way of doing things, now he’s spending more time with each individual player. A certain level of comfort on offensive and defensive expectations allows Atlantic to get back to fundamentals – dribbling, passing, shooting and more.
A big help to that was the purchase of a shooting gun.
With a net around the hoop and a machine underneath that passes makes and misses back out to shooters, the Trojans were able to get up a lot of shots over the month and a half of work.
Though not all members of the team were available due to participation in other sports, Juhl said normally eight to 10 were in attendance for weekly practices and scrimmages.
Even those with other commitments were in attendance more often than not.
“This summer it’s a little easier to have girls working on individual things,” Juhl said. “Last summer we had to focus on our team as a whole a little bit more just so that we were ready when November started.”
“This summer it’s been a lot nicer to work with groups. We can break up into groups of two and they can be shooting with that gun. We worked a lot especially with Erin (Olsen) and Megan (Behrends) and Emily (Hohenberger) with being able to shoot the ball off the dribble better.”
At 12.9 points per game, Olsen led Atlantic last season in scoring. With 284 total points she was more than 100 points ahead of the next closest Trojan.
The problem was other teams knew that as well. Developing a second and third scoring option has been the goal ever since.
There are several possibilities on the roster, however, some are nursing a nagging injury and others are rehabbing a surgery.
Two that are fully healthy, who Juhl singled out as some of the hardest workers he’s seen this summer, include sophomores Behrends and Hohenberger. Though neither contributed much offensively last season, both are taking the steps necessary to change that.
“Megan Behrends and Emily Hohenberger were probably our two most reliable girls there,” Juhl said. “They worked really hard, and obviously we’re gonna need someone to fill Macey Schmitt’s spot after she graduated. Those two came in, they worked hard, went to the speed and agility training and lifted weights before practice. They did a good job of being in the gym on a regular basis.”
Juhl has also been leading with a new face at his side.
Emma Walker, hired as the Atlantic volleyball coach just weeks ago, will serve as Juhl’s assistant and junior varsity coach. Trying to get volleyball going has mostly kept her away from basketball.
Fortunately, the two already had some familiarity with one another because of scrimmages last season between the Trojans and Walker’s former school AHSTW.
It’ll be a while before she can dedicate serious time to Atlantic basketball, but once Walker can, Juhl is confident she’ll add to what the Trojans are trying to achieve.
“She relates to the girls very well already and I think she’s gonna have that volleyball season where she’s gonna get to know a lot of those volleyball girls and fit in just fine,” Juhl said.”
It’s more than three months before Atlantic tips it off for the new season and much hard work remains.
Juhl likes what he sees out of his team so far and believes the best is yet to come.
“We’re progressing,” he said. “We’re doing things that we need to do and we’re taking the right steps to be successful in the offseason.”