Woodridge girls basketball looks to vault over .500 this winter

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Woodridge forward Olivia Woods, left, posts up on Streetsboro forward Allison Laudato during a game last season. Woods is one of three returning starters for Woodridge.

Despite losing a strong senior class to graduation, the Woodridge girls basketball squad has eight athletes with experience as well as a nice influx of youth and energy.

Fifth-year head coach Chris Nauer is excited about the season and his club’s athleticism.

Last season, the Division II Bulldogs finished 11-12 overall.

Nauer is hoping to vault over the .500 mark and extend in the post season as the 10th-seeded Bulldogs fell 52-40 to seventh-seeded Revere in a first round Macedonia Division sectional clash a year ago.

There were flashes of excellence in 2019 for the Bulldogs, who outscored Revere 26-20 in the second half of that sectional contest.

Players lost to graduation include starters Emma Francis and Libby Howard, plus veterans Madison Randall, Kayla Kearns, and Bella Chirakos.

Nauer is hoping to gain even more consistency as the program moves from the Portage Trail Conference to the inaugural season of the Metro Athletic Conference (MAC).

“Our girls know they can compete each and every night,” proclaimed Nauer, of the new league.

Although schedules are certain to change at times this season due to COVID-19, Woodridge is set to open the season Nov. 20 at home against Kent Roosevelt.

Another non-league game is slated for Nov. 24 at home against Tallmadge.

Featuring a deep backcourt and some athletes who can get out and run, Nauer is looking for that energy on both ends.

Three starters return with senior Olivia Woods, senior Layla Foster, and sophomore Leah Mencer.

Woods is a 5-foot-10 post player who received first-team All-PTC honors in 2019. This is her third year.

A tireless and physical player in the paint, Woods can score, rebound, defend, and also look for the open teammate. Woods averaged 8.5 points and 7.5 rebounds a year ago.

“Olivia has a dominating inside post presence,” stated Nauer. “She is dedicated and a hard worker who was first-team all-league last year.”

Foster will be one of the more experienced guards in the newly-formed MAC. The 5-7 combo guard can play point guard, off guard, and even on the wing.

Last winter, the unselfish Foster hit for 4.0 points, 3.0 boards, 1.0 assists and 1.0 steals a contest. She works hard on her on-ball defense and helps out on the glass.

“Layla is a four-year varsity basketball player, an excellent defender, and she leads by example,” pointed out Nauer.

Mencer started as a freshman and has a huge upside.

A 5-6 lead guard, Mencer can play the point, shoot 3-pointers, hit mid-range jumpers, and has solid quickness on both ends. Last year, Mencer added 5.5 points, 2.0 thefts, and dished out 1.5 assists a game.

“Leah has a great basketball IQ,” offered Nauer. “She is a hard worker, a fierce competitor, and makes everyone around her better.”

Woodridge did a good job last winter of limiting turnovers, but at times, would have unforced turnovers in their half court offense that would limit their success.

Returning lettermen include senior Bella Owen, junior Izzy Best, junior Kendal Gregory, junior Emma Stekelenburg, and sophomore Anna Rorrer.

Owen is a 5-6 guard and a two-year letter winner. She is a solid 3-point threat who has good range.

“Bella is a natural shooter, as well as a leader and a hard worker,” articulated Nauer.

Both Owen and Best have starting experience while Gregory has some experience in the player rotation.

Best is 5-8 whirlwind athlete who has constant energy, especially on the defensive end. Her tenacious defense, quick footwork, and tireless energy can frustrate opposing scorers.

“Izzy is super athletic and quick, plus she can give great defensive pressure, and is a great teammate,” remarked Nauer.

A 5-7 junior guard, Gregory got increased minutes last season and was a contributor on both ends. She plays bigger than her size and is a competitor.

Stekelenburg gives Woodridge much needed size in the post without Howard and Kearns. Stekelenburg is 5-10 and will help out on the boards.

Rorrer is a 5-7 guard who also came on strong late last year to earn varsity minutes and is a sound athlete.

Top newcomers according to Nauer are sophomore Corinne Betts and freshman Kayla Mayner.

Betts will help the Bulldogs in the paint with her size and her rebounding as the 5-10 post is improving after getting some varsity play in 2019.

Mayner is an exciting rookie prospect from a successful eighth-grade unit. A solid athlete, Mayner is a 5-8 guard who can also be used on the wing or at forward.

Last year, Woodridge wrapped up its play in the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division with a 6-8 mark.

Norton (18-7 overall, 14-0 in the league) ended with 39 straight league wins and capped the PTC with four straight titles.

Another stronghold was Lodi Cloverleaf 17-8, 9-5), which reached district semis before losing to top seed Bay Village in the Elyria District.

Two other clubs expected to be in the mix for the MAC will be Ravenna (12-12, 9-5) and Field (13-10, 8-6).

Woodridge is set to open MAC action on the road at Field Dec. 2. As of this writing, start times for all week day games will be 7 p.m.

Nauer realizes MAC play will be challenging with the league’s depth.

“The girls know they can compete each and every night in the league and they look forward to the opportunity to show the Metro that the Lady Bulldogs can do just that this season,” said Nauer, 

Woodridge's assistant coaches include varsity assistant coach Dan Scourfield andjunior varsity coach Erik Miller.

The Bulldogs will look to move up the MAC ladder this winter.