Jeff Hammerton will start his second season as head coach of the Boardman Lady Spartans basketball team when his girls host Youngstown East on Friday, Nov. 22.
Hammerton spent his initial year as Boardman's bench boss fighting the ghosts of his legendary predecessor, Ron Moschella. That didn't necessarily mean the rookie coach failed as the Lady Spartans sprung an upset of Fitch in the first round of the Division I state playoffs, but he did struggle a bit finding his own identity.
"I had to learn to be myself," said Hammerton in a recent phone conversation. "I learned not to walk in someone else's shoes."
This season, the coach and his kids will attempt to lace up those sneakers and contend in the ferocious Federal League. Ascending to the top of the standings may not be easy, however, because as usual the conference is challenging.
"The Federal League is a grind," said Hammerton. "(North Canton) Hoover is the best team in the league and they got the best player in a transfer. (Canton) McKinley and (Uniontown) Lake are the next two teams, then after those three teams it's very competitive."
Boardman should be at the top of that competing group because it is stacked with six seniors who should all make an impact this season. Megan Volosin, Kelly Tomcsanyi, Briana Fonderlin, Jada Redd, Jenna Kuczek and Anna Patoray are the sensational six who coach Hammerton will lean on the most. In fact, since there is a sextet of seniors who are so talented, the coach really doesn't have an everyday lineup.
"We are senior laden," said Hammerton. "All six girls have some type of starting experience so we really don't have a starting five. Our lineup may depend on our opponent."
Two other girls who Boardman's opponents may need to worry about are sophomore Krista Johnson, who should be the seventh player in Hammerton's rotation, and junior Doricia Robinson. One thing all of those above-mentioned players have in common is an ability to bust it back and forth on the floor.
"We want to be a fast, up-and-down team," announced Hammerton. "All of our girls can play all five spots. If we speed people up, we can give teams trouble."
Conversely, the only trouble the coach sees with his club is a lack of size. Tomcsanyi stands close to six feet, but after her the rest of the Spartans' are a lot smaller. Although, Hammerton is mildly worried with his team's dearth of tall bodies, he doesn't think it will hinder his gang's chances.
"I'm not too concerned with the size matchups," said the coach honestly, "but without a true center, it may hurt us for rebounding."
More disconcerting to Hammerton than the potential outrebounding is the way his ladies lost the ball a year ago.
"We had too many turnovers last year," Hammerton complained. "We are working a lot on limiting those turnovers."
There is no limit to the Spartans' depth either. fter the eight athletes who will be on Boardman's main roster, there are seven sophomores who may be called up to the varsity at any time this year to lend a couple of hands.
"These are the same seven girls who won a freshman championship last year," said Hammerton proudly.
Opening night opponent East is one team in the area that may match the Spartans in quickness. That is why hosting the Lady Panthers in the season starter will be a great way to challenge Boardman early. All students and fans are encouraged to wear white to the Friday night battle as Boardman is holding a "whiteout."
"We are trying to host theme games to get the community more involved," explained Hammerton.
Another great way for the community to back Boardman girls basketball is by winning a majority of its games and contending for a Federal League championship. Thanks to a bevy of experienced ballplayers, it may not be out of the question for these Spartans to do just that.