An eye on the future: Lyle-Pacelli girls’ basketball team working to take next stepPublished 9:36pm Thursday, June 27, 2013
The Lyle-Pacelli girls’ basketball team took a big step last season, and it’s working hard this summer so it can take an even bigger step next season.
LP is having one of the busiest summers in program history under new head coach Justin Morris and for good reason. The team is competing in the Tri-County League this summer and is also playing in a few highly competitive tournaments. The Athletics are playing a lot of Class ‘AA’ schools, which means they have taken some losses.
That isn’t a bad thing, according to Morris.
“We’re learning how to deal with kids that are more physical and faster,” Morris said. “Having to deal with defeat is good. I think that it brings you closer together as a team if you can overcome it and stick together.”
The Athletics went 23-4 last season, won the Southeast Conference West Division and gave Goodhue a tough game in a 70-62 loss in the Section 1A West semifinals.
A lot of LP’s wins were lopsided and they weren’t tested very often. That’s why this summer is so important.
“It’s been a good eye-opener, because during the regular season we won by like 20 or 30 points,” said LP guard Ann Rysavy, who will be a senior in the fall. “It’s very good for our team to test ourselves.”
Morris, who graduated from Austin High School in 2005, is well accustomed to coaching summer league basketball. He helped start the Minnesota Fury, which is now the second largest AAU basketball program in Minnesota. Morris has coached in a lot of the big AAU tournaments across the country, and he was an assistant coach at Mahtomedi High School while he attended the University of Minnesota.
When Morris graduated and started working for AgStar, he thought his coaching career might be over. But after Morris coached a few LP girls over the summer, former LP head coach Brad Walter, who will now be an assistant coach with the team, thought Morris would make a good coach for the Athletics.
Walter and assistant coach Carl Truckenmiller each had two daughters on the team and they thought it might be better to have a head coach who wasn’t related to anyone on the team.
“Brad wanted someone to come in and give a fresh approach,” Morris said. “It created some family tension (for them) and I think that’s a natural thing. They wanted somebody from the outside who wasn’t a direct family member. It’s worked out really well.”
Rysavy, who has been on the LP varsity team since she was a seventh grader, is hoping to make her last year her best. She said the team has reacted well to Morris, who was an assistant coach for LP last season.
“We’re as intense as he is. If we’re in the game, he’s in the game and we feed off his energy,” Rysavy said. “He’s brought a ton to the program. I definitely learned a lot from Brad and (Morris) has brought a lot of new things. He’ll come up with plays on the dot in practice and they’ll work just fine in games. He’s a great coach.”
Under Walter, LP went from being a team that lost by 30 or 40 points on a regular basis to a squad that was winning games by that margin last season.
Morris said he’s taking over a program that is in good shape.
“Brad and Carl really built the program to where it is now,” Morris said. “They kind of turned the keys of the Ferrari over to me and I’ve just got to drive it home.”
The Athletics gave Goodhue a little bit of a surprise in the Section 1A West title game last season and they’re hoping to make an even bigger impression next season.
Morris said the goal is to play in the state tournament.
“We want to be a championship program,” he said. “You look at what the Austin boys did last year and how they captured the whole town. That’s what we’re trying to do. We believe we can go to state this year and capture the imagination of everybody.”