With four important players gone from last year's regional final squad, few would be shocked if the Canfield girls basketball team started this season slowly.
What was a surprise though was how sloppily the Canfield ladies played over their first week of the year. The Lady Cardinals split their first four games playing a brand of basketball not usually witnessed by Cardinal Nation. Canfield head coach Pat Pavlansky had a feeling before this season commenced that there may be some growing pains early.
"We'll have a lot of new faces to the varsity so we must be patient," said coach Pavlansky a few days before the regular season.
Patience was certainly a virtue the coach needed at the outset of a 52-50 loss to West Branch on Nov. 28. The Lady Warriors went out and scored 12 of the game's first 16 points in this rematch of last year's Division II district championship.
Canfield then came back to score eight points in a row to get back into the game. A 13-2 run by the Warriors to start the second stanza put the home team comfortably in front for a while. A late run by Canfield's girls speared by some sharp shooting by Rachel Tinkey could not bring the local girls back. Tinkey took control for the Cardinals with 26 points. She led all scorers on the night with that terrific total.
Canfield's fantastic junior jump-started the season for Canfield a few nights earlier when she scored 24 points against visiting Chardon. Canfield made rude hosts with a 42-37 opening victory. Erin Risner followed Tinkey in scoring with nine points as Canfield's girls got the schedule going. Even with the win, Canfield's play left a little to be desired. The Cardinals committed 26 turnovers and hit less than 50 percent of their free throws, but still were able to send Chardon home winless. Other numbers are not quite appealing either. So far this season the Lady Cards are averaging 40 points while giving up 46 to their opponents. Pavlansky's kids are being outshot 39 percent to 34 percent from the field and 56 percent to 48 percent from the foul line. Coach Pavlansky feels that his team is learning despite those demoralizing numbers however.
"The girls are gaining valuable experience on how to play successful basketball on the varsity level," explained the coach. "We have some inexperienced players that have now played some good competition. They are also learning some valuable lessons like turnovers are not good and that good shooting can cover up a multitude of sins of this game."
A sin can be the phrase used to describe how the Cardinals treated Hubbard this past Monday night. Prior to that early December conference tussle Pavlansky admitted he was anxious to see how his girls would react to playing their first league tilt so soon in the season. The veteran coach had nothing to worry about as Canfield came out strong and sent the Eagles flying back to Trumbull County, 65-15.
The Cards will get another crack at hammering Hubbard on Jan. 9, but in the month leading up to that rematch they will play some pivotal All American matches. A quartet of contests against the who's who of the league confronts the Cardinals over the next two weeks. Canfield starts and finishes that stretch on the road at Fitch and Poland. In between, the ladies take on Howland and Struthers at home. If coach Pav was anxious to play one game against Hubbard imagine what he'll be before facing that fearsome foursome.