With the Warriors getting ready to open girls basketball season this week, veteran coach Dave Garvin would love to have the lineup he envisioned out on the floor.
But the preseason has not been kind to Philomath with sophomore Emma Pankalla in a walking boot, junior Hailey Matthews set back by illness and junior Lauren Berklund turning an ankle during Saturday night's scrimmage. Senior Haidyn Ecker, nock on wood, is healthy.
"We figured coming back with Emma, Haidyn and Lauren, all-league performers," Garvin said. "Hailey, she played hurt all last year so if we get her healthy coming in, we could be pretty salty going through. The team's meshed together well and then you start losing them one at a time."
The situation with Pankalla at point guard appears to be the most serious in terms of getting those players on the court at the same time.
"She practiced about three days and it's been something that's been bothering her all year," Garvin said. "Volleyball's not a stop-and-go, cut-hard type of thing so it didn't hurt her as much."
Pankalla's status is uncertain with the source of the foot pain that she's been experiencing somewhat of a mystery.
"We're going under the assumption that we'll have her back after Christmas," Garvin said. "That's kind of the worst-case scenario. If we get her back before that, great; if we don't, we'll do the best we can."
With Pankalla sidelined, the Warriors went to freshman Braedyn McNeely and senior Carrie Lillis at the point in Saturday's scrimmage.
"I really hate to throw a freshman out there the first game of the year at point guard, but in practice, she's looked the best without Emma being here," Garvin said in reference to McNeely. "Hailey was our point guard a couple of years ago and she's kinda our emergency backup right now. I don't want to have to play her there, but she has more experience than the other two, too."
After a 4-6 record last season in the Oregon West Conference, the Warriors could be on the verge of turning a corner to be more competitive.
Ecker, who is listed at 6-foot-2 on the roster, believes it can happen with hard work and effort.
"If we really settle down and put our foot on the pedal and say, 'hey, let's do this,'" Ecker said. "We have five seniors this year and if we step up and say, 'this is our senior season. Let's go and turn this around.'"
Garvin said players need to believe in themselves.
"If you think about last year, once we got a couple of wins, we started turning things around," he said. "We were playing really good at the end of the year."
Players that score the big points usually draw the most attention but defensive specialists are just as important to the team. Ecker takes a lot of pride in her D.
"I want to get defensive stops for my team," Ecker said. "I think defense wins games. Just being on the o-boards and the defensive boards will help the team, being a leader and points will fall after that."
As for where the team needs to improve heading into the first game: "I think we really need at times to be more serious," Ecker said. "We really need to work on our offense and get that down and continue to talk on defense."
Garvin started to implement new wrinkles to the offense this past summer. The Warriors executed well with several wide-open layups in the scrimmage.
"Scrimmage-wise tonight, we wanted to go against the JVs because we're putting in a bunch of new stuff and they (junior varsity players) don't know it," Garvin said. "If you have varsity vs. varsity, you make a call and everybody knows what's coming."
Garvin believes things could be pretty interesting in Oregon West play this season.
"You would probably give the nod to Cascade, assuming Hailey Wright's healthy and can play," Garvin said. "I think it's really kinda wide open. Cascade was good last year, North Marion was good last year, but if you think about it, those teams barely beat us. Each of those games, we did something at the end of the third or in the fourth quarter to let them get the lead."
Garvin expects to find some answers on the top teams as they go through the nonconference portion of the schedule.
Philomath opens its season Friday at Hidden Valley and then will get a huge test in Saturday's home opener against Marshfield. The Warriors will host a four-school tournament Dec. 8-9 with Eagle Point, Waldport and Crook County competing.