Riverside girls basketball coach Jack Mekilo wants a return to normalcy as the veteran coach gets ready for next season.
So much went wrong for the Lady Vikes before the season ever began that a .500 record they achieved was seen as cause for some celebration.
A torn ACL suffered in the fall cost Riverside one starter a second starter was unable to play over the summer because of a balky knee; and a third underwent a surgical procedure that kept her from being as big a factor. And all that came before the season even began.
“Considering what we had to go through before and during the season with the injuries, I’m thrilled with the way the girls competed,” Mekilo said. “We didn’t get the amount of wins we wanted, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort or the will to win.”
While the season ended in the District 2 Class AA playoffs, the Lady Vikes went down playing hard, giving their best at all times.
“It was a heroic effort from our kids to finish 12-12,” Mekilo said. “There was the potential for a collapse, and we didn’t. The season was a huge success.”
Learning how to overcome so many misfortunes did have some positives, and Mekilo will try to remind his team next year to build on the successes the Lady Vikes put together.
“We had a lot of bad luck with what we went through this season,” Mekilo said. “We had to play a lot of young kids, and the seniors showed them how to go through and fight adversity.”
Some players took advantage of increased playing time and made themselves key components for the Lady Vikes.
“Lauren Grzyboski didn’t even have a starting job at the start of the year, and she became one of our core players,” Mekilo said. “She really came into her own.”
She wasn’t the only player to make an impact for Riverside.
”We’ll have three starters back, and Lizzie Spindler, a freshman, was our leading scorer, and led us in rebounding and assists,” Mekilo said. “It’s going to be so much fun watching her play for the next three seasons.
“There’s not a player, I think, that’s any better than her.”
With McKenzie Haduck and sixth man Julia Osmolin back to join Spindler and Grzyboski, Riverside figures to have a strong backcourt, looking for some inside help for a little balance on offensive and a stopper on defense.
From what they went through over the last year, the better the Lady Vikes can prepare for the 2014-15 season, the better their chances of challenging for the Lackawanna League Division III title.
“Dunmore, Holy Cross, they’re going to have everybody back,” Mekilo said. “We have to narrow the gap between us and Dunmore, Holy Cross and Old Forge. We went 0-6 against them, and we have to win those games [ next year ] .”
One way of that happening is actually to be able to have a healthy off-season, giving the players time to adjust to each other and get accustomed to the role Mekilo would like to have them play. Last summer and fall, that did not occur because of the injuries.
“We have to have a good off-season,” Mekilo said. “They see the importance of a good off-season.”
Starting with the four returning guards gives Mekilo a strong base to build upon, with getting the proper spacing on offense and ball distribution the type of things that can only be gained by playing together over the summer and fall.
As long as the injury bug doesn’t strike for a second straight year, Riverside should be an entertaining team to watch next season.
Mekilo certainly hopes so.