With an influx of young talent in the program and sectional basketball suddenly here, Woodridge girls head coach Chris Nauer and his coaching staff doesn’t want to dismiss the impact of the club’s senior class.
Nauer will always remember this group of seniors.
"This was my first senior class from start to finish so Senior Night was very emotional for me," offered the coach, alluding to a recent 54-40 league loss to Coventry in which the seniors were honored.
On the cusp of the postseason, Woodridge (11-11) had a lot going on and the seniors were a big part of that.
The senior class includes guard Emma Francis, forward Libby Howard, post Bella Chirakos, post Kayla Kearns and wing Madison Randall.
Woodridge was set to play a first-round Macedonia Division II sectional game as the 10th-seeded Bulldogs played at seventh-seeded Revere in Peninsula Saturday.
Revere (11-10) is a club that finished near .500 in the strong Suburban League American Conference that includes Aurora, Medina Highland, Tallmadge and Barberton.
"This is a fun to group to coach and this is a great senior class with good players and good people," said Nauer.
As one of the team’s go-to offensive players, Francis at the same time has developed and evolved her game.
The 5-foot-8 wing is also the club’s best distributer and has become a playmaker for others. She averages over eight points a game with fiver ebounds, three assists, and is among the team leaders in steals.
"Emma is a great part of what we do and she is very unselfish," Nauer stressed. "She can score, but has become so unselfish."
Howard is a tireless 5-foot-11 athlete who does a lot of the dirty work, but always seems to have a strong floor game. She can defend, rebound, run the court and pass the ball well.
Always possessing a workmanlike approach, Howard adds 5.0 points and 7.2 boards per game and has collected 35 steals and has 16 blocked shots to her credit.
"Libby is a cross country and track standout who has really come into her own, and she has great work ethic," said Nauer. "She quietly fills the stat sheet for us."
Randall has played out on the perimeter and on the wing, and along with Kearns and Chirakos, has played key roles in the rotation during their careers.
Kearns is an experienced player in the paint with strong fundamentals who always seems to make plays while Chirakos often produces offense down low in the post when she contributes off the Bulldog bench.
The trio of Randall, Kearns and Chirakos are all two-year lettermen with strong program experience.
"All three — Bella, Kayla and Maddi — have been a huge part of this program and they are true senior leaders," proclaimed Nauer.
"They fill their roles and make an impact on the offensive and defensive end when they are called upon."
The winner of that first-round clash plays a sectional championship on the road at second-seed Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy Feb. 20 at 7 p.m.
CVCA (19-2) has one of the best young teams in the entire area with an exciting freshman backcourt trio of Gia Casalinova, Kylie Bettinger and Nina Shaffer, plus versatile junior wing Sidney Marshall.
Woodridge played an exceptional game in a 56-51 loss in the regular-season finale Wednesday against league champion Norton (15-6), which has now won 38 Portage Trail Conference games in a row.
"I am proud of the way the girls and how they handle themselves on and off the court," said Nauer of his seniors.
Nauer is also proud of the vast contributions this winter from his program.
"We have so many girls who have stepped up and it is often someone different on each night," explained the coach. "All of the kids have been unselfish."
Hard-working junior Olivia Woods had a great outing for the Bulldogs against Coventry as she collected 16 points and converted on eight buckets in the battle.
Francis had eight points while Randall and junior guard Layla Foster each chipped in five.