NTL GIRLS BASKETBALL: SAYRE'S SPARDUTI GRATEFUL TO BE BACK ON FLOOR WITH VARSITY PROGRAM (12 PHOTOS) (2021-11-24)
By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
SAYRE — After a year’s hiatus, longtime Sayre girls basketball coach Eileen Sparduti returns to the varsity sidelines this season with a young (and small) roster that is busy preparing for the 2021-22 season.
Due to a lack of numbers, the Sayre varsity program was suspended for the 2020-21 season, so Sparduti spent her time coaching the junior team.
“It’s great to be back in the gym with an older group,” she said. “I really enjoyed my time last year with the junior high team, which included our 9th-graders.
“That was a great experience, but to be here and to be able to see (the freshmen) now is rewarding,” noted Sparduti. “And, I’m excited for the older kids who have the opportunity to be back in here.
“There’s a lot to be grateful for, and we’re excited about it,” she added.
The Lady Redskins have had 10 in uniform during the first week of practice, but it’s been quite an adventure getting there.
“We had 13 at one point last spring, but from June on we had some attrition,” said Sparduti. “We lost one to an injury, two to transfers, and one young lady who decided not to play at the last minute.
“About a week-and-a-half ago, in a 72-hour period, we went from 11 to nine to seven, then back to eight, back to nine, and then we added another player, who is literally learning the game,” she added.
Sparduti is pleased with the roster breakdown.
“Everyone asks how many we have, and that is important, but who do we have is probably more important.
“We have one senior (Jazz DeKay) … bless her heart, she has stuck with us for four years. She obviously loves the game,” said Sparduti. “And, we have one junior (Gabby Shaw). They are our elder statesmen.
“We have three sophomores who are like the energizer bunnies … and we have five freshmen, who had a good junior high experience, and bring some good qualities to the court,” added Sparduti.
The future also appears bright, notes Sparduti.
“We have good numbers for us in the junior high,” she said. “We’re a little light on 7th-graders, but we have six 8th-graders, and five of them are good athletes.
“And, we have kids at all positions,” said Sparduti. “We have a true point guard down there, two hustling guards, a nice forward in 8th grade, and a nice forward on the 7th-grade team.
“I lose one senior, and if everyone of those 8th-graders comes out, we’ll lose one and get six. I’ll take that every year,” she added.
Sparduti said the offseason was a learning experience for her girls.
“We did play summer ball … not as much as I would have liked because we had some injuries,” she said.
“We use summer ball for a challenge. We were in way over our head, but we get better,” noted Sparduti.
“We had some good experiences. The girls got pushed around, but I saw them step up and answer the bell.
“The last game we played this summer, by luck of the draw, was against a JV team from a much larger school. Although I tell the girls don’t watch the score, we had more points than they did at the end of the game,” laughed Sparduti.
“I know these girls can compete when the skill is comparable, so we’re going to build from there,” she added.
Sayre will travel to O-M Saturday for a scrimmage, then will host Candor on Dec. 4
The Lady Redskins open the season Dec. 15 at Athens.
IN PHOTO 1: Sayre coach Eileen Sparduti. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.