After 11 straight winning seasons, eight Final Four appearances, three NWAACC championships, and oh yes, an 83-game home winning streak, the Lane Community College women’s basketball team is starting from scratch this season.
At least that’s the way it seems for longtime coach and athletic director Greg Sheley, who has just one returning player this season and 13 freshmen.
“It’s a unique situation to have only one back,” said Sheley, whose team opens the season on Friday against Bellevue at a tournament hosted by Everett (Wash.) Community College. “That’s not the normal routine. I feel like it’s my first year at Lane all over again.”
With one big exception — when Sheley took over in the summer of 1999, Lane hadn’t been to the postseason since 1993. Now, anything less than contending for an NWAACC championship is a disappointment for a team with more wins (268-53) than any other junior college program in the Pacific Northwest since 2001.
Even with such a large group of newcomers, “That goal hasn’t changed,” Sheley said. “We’re just not talking about that past as much. We tell them who we are and what we expect of them, I’m just not hammering them over the head with our past.”
Neither is anyone else for that matter, since only guard Reed Levings has played a game for Sheley and Lane. Levings, a former standout at Cottage Grove High School, started last season and helped guide the Titans to a 24-6 record and a fourth-place finish at the NWAACC tournament.
“She’s really doing a great job,” Sheley said. “She’s really accepted a leadership role, and the kids like her.”
Sheley said he has never returned fewer than three players, and without the benefit of veterans now finds himself doing more coaching than he has done in a long time.
“I forgot how long it takes to teach things when no one knows how to do it,” he said with a laugh. “I think (the coaches) are working as hard as the kids.”
Sheley said the team is a long way from having an established starting five — with the exception of Levings — but he hopes to have it worked out by the time league play begins in January.
A handful of players have stood out in practices, starting with a pair of forwards, 6-foot-1 Megan Shields and 5-9 Courtney Walchli.
“We will count on Megan to do some things; she’s got some skills,” Sheley said. “(Walchli) does a lot of the little things well.”
Sheley has also been impressed with 5-7 guard Joleen Chanco and 5-5 twins, Kersey and Jordan Wilcox from Mountain View High School in Bend.
“We’re just trying to get these girls to compete,” Sheley said. “They’re still struggling to understand what we want out of offensive sets. The biggest hurdle is half-court offense execution.
“But this group is working hard and that’s great.”
The young team won’t have to worry about maintaining the home winning streak, which was ended at 83 games late last January by Clackamas, marking the first home loss since Dec. 6, 2001.
“It would’ve been nice to keep that thing going,” Sheley said. “But we won our last three home games, so we’re just starting over again.”
In more ways than one.
“We’re just not talking about that past as much. We tell them who we are and what we expect of them, I’m just not hammering them over the head with our past.”
Lane Community College Women’s basketball coach