West Potomac senior Alex Jones remembers all the coaching changes, referring to the uncertainty as "tragic." Junior Sofie McMullen recalls a practice or two when the Wolverines didn’t have a head coach in the gym.
Turnover has been commonplace for the West Potomac girls basketball program. Terry Newton, 39, enters the 2010-11 campaign as the fourth different West Potomac head coach in four seasons. Newton took over near the end of last season for Vincent Tate and said he hopes to bring some stability to the program. Newton won his first game as head coach, beating Lake Braddock, but West Potomac dropped its final three games to finish 2-15.
Newton’s first step toward turning the program around would be to lay the foundation this season with a team composed of two seniors, three juniors and seven freshmen and sophomores.
"I feel as though in two seasons, we should be in the top four within [the Patriot] District," Newton said. "The good thing about having a young team, you can sculpt them and develop them into what you want. There’s a lot of young talent."
Getting the chance to coach the Wolverines at the end of last year helped bring organization to the offseason and continuity headed into November practices. Newton said the program’s numbers were up during offseason conditioning and enough girls tried out that cuts were made.
"It was pretty difficult because ever since I came to West Potomac we’ve had a different coach every year," Jones said. "No matter if it was freshman or varsity, it’s always been a different coach. It was kind of tragic, but we’ve got to work with [Newton] and now we’re used to him. This year it’s easier because we have the same coach."
Jones, a 5-foot-7 guard, and 5-foot-8 post Danuelle Doswell are the team’s only seniors. McMullen, a 6-foot forward, 5-foot-10 post Caroline Kelly and 5-foot-6 point guard Melanie Boykin are the team’s juniors.
"It’s been really hard," McMullen said of the coaching changes. "We’ve had to go from learning different plays and different practice routines, switching halfway through [last season, to] getting used to not having a coach at some practices, so it’s been really hard on all the players.
"[Newton has] been awesome. We love him so much. He saved us last year. He helped us finish our season off. He’s been great this year. I think we’ve definitely improved. We’ve got a pretty good roster this year. I expect big things."
While the upperclassmen can provide leadership, the future of the program is its talented underclassmen. Newton said sophomores Tayla Dawson (5’3" point guard) and Blossom Pierre (5’7" guard) and freshmen Resheika Gegory (5’8" forward) and Tajah Staton-Badson (5’6" guard) will be the team’s top offensive threats. Sophomores Lindsey Sawczuk (5’5") and Anna Carney (6’) and freshman Rosey Sheehan (5’10") will compete for playing time.
What are Newton’s expectations for a team so young?
"Development: that’s all I expect," he said. "We’re going to win some games, we’re going to lose some games, but I really think we’re going to shock teams. I don’t think we’re going to be that same pushover. [Teams can’t] automatically chalk us up as a win on [their] schedules this year. I think we’re going to give a lot of teams a surprise."
West Potomac opens on the road against rival Mount Vernon at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 3. The Wolverines’ first district game is Dec. 10 at home against Lee. While West Potomac lacks experience, Newton spoke with confidence about the Wolverines’ chances of getting off to a fast start.
"We start off against Mount Vernon on Friday, then we’ve got Wakefield and Lee," he said. "I really feel as though it’s an opportunity for us to start 3-0 this year. My expectations? If we can break .500 this year, I think that’s a very successful season."