Fortunately for the Lady Raiders, things have worked out so far under new coach Vanessa White.
Under White’s guidance, Riverwood was 7-6 overall and 2-3 in Region 7AAAAA (B) action as of Thursday.
White, an assistant coach at Peachtree Ridge the last two seasons who replaced Michael Mezzio at the Riverwood helm, inherited a solid team that was 19-11 and a state tournament qualifier in Class AAA a year ago.
Despite getting a late start after taking the job in October and coaching a team that had two other coaches the last couple of years, White is encouraged by the progress that her new team has made.
“Especially the last five or six games, we’ve shown a lot of improvement,” White said. “I didn’t have a summer with them – I kind of jumped on and started when we started practicing on Oct. 9 – so I’ve got a lot to learn. They’ve done a good job playing defense and rebounding, but we still need to work on our half-court offense. Our goal is to improve every game.”
White does acknowledge that she is still learning about the team and acclimating her players to the style and system of another new coach.
“It’s been tough, since they’ve had three coaches in three different years,” White said. “So, I think it’s a process, but they’re starting to understand me a little better and understand my system a little better. Game by game, I’m having to do less, getting them where I want them to be and where they’re supposed to be.”
One of the things White wants to bring to Riverwood is an emphasis on the performance of her players away from the gym.
“It’s more about what’s going on off the court that what’s going on on the court,” White said. “I try to have them focus on being responsible, doing things the right way. When you do that, it spills onto the court. My mentality is court, community, classroom and if we can take care of those things, all of that is going to roll over to the court.”
Senior guard Hannahkohl Almire, senior center Tia Brooks and junior guard Daizha Tate-Edge are the leading scorers, but White said everyone on the team contributes.
“We’re pretty balanced,” White said. “Tia had 27 [points] the other night and her teammates scored about eight or nine points. On any given night, any kid can step up.”
In addition to the challenge of moving up from Class AAA to AAAAA, Riverwood will have the added pressure of competing in a subregion in 7AAAAA that features two other state tournament teams from a year ago — Osborne and Kell.
“We’ll continue to improve and get better,” White said. “All the [subregion] games have been close games, so it’s a constant battle in our region.”