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Another step forward

Blue Devils set lofty goals after outstanding season

Injuries might hamper the beginning of the season, but if all goes well, Western Reserve has all the seeds planted to play its way into March once again.

After the best girls basketball season in school history, which found its end in a 53-32 loss to Dalton in the Massillon Regional semifinals, expectations for the Blue Devils are quite high. The team’s success all depends on how quickly the players can recover from the injury bug.

“We return a lot of players from a team that won 22 games and won the district championship,” Western Reserve coach Steve Miller said. “With that said, currently we’re battling a lot of injuries. A couple of them tried to play in our scrimmages and it looked like it was everyone’s first practice, but we’re in progress right now and we plan on being pretty good.”

The team returns many of their top performers from last year including Danielle Vuletich, who is coming off a record-breaking season with 94 blocks and 308 rebounds. Vuletich has size at 6-feet-2, which makes her a very valuable player in the post.

“Everyone has to worry about her inside, but she’s also a great shooter,” Miller said. “She shot almost 70 percent from the field.”

Kennedy Miller, who also set a record with 153 assists, and Alyssa Serensky, who recently committed to Bethany College are also back in the lineup.

“They’re a really fun group to coach,” Miller said. “They know the game well, so we have a lot of things we can do. We can play man, play zone, play half-court stuff, I have a lot of flexibility with having a nice balance of you know, bigs and guards.”

The only goal for the team is to make it past the regional semifinals where last season came to an end. One thing that will prepare Western Reserve for that big stage is its schedule. The Blue Devils have no easy rides this season as they face a tough league schedule and an even tougher non-league schedule that brings the team up against tough schools from across the state.

“We have several Division II teams that we’re playing,” Miller said. “We’re playing Thurgood Marshall out of Dayton over at Walsh, and then we’re going to play Napoleon at Berlin Hiland over Martin Luther King weekend. They were in the regional finals last year in Division II so that’s going to be a challenge.”

Western Reserve does have a few close non-league games on the schedule, which are just as tough for the team.

“We’re playing Struthers, which is another Division II team, so I think our schedule is going to help prepare us for the tournament,” Miller said. “We have high expectations, but we’re just battling injuries at the moment.”

The Blue Devils opened their season with the team that won last season’s regional, Cornerstone Christian.

The teams met up in the Bulldog Battle at Canton McKinley last weekend with Cornerstone coming out on top with a 52-40 win. Before the game, Serensky said the game was to be used as a measuring stick, because if the Blue Devils are to make it past the regional final, that’s the team that will be standing in their way.

“Our only goal is to get to the regional final,” Serensky said. “That’s it. Every day of practice we’ve been talking about it. Our first game of the year is against Cornerstone Christian and that’s who we’re going to have to play in the regional final. That’s our measuring mark to see what we need to do better and find a way to beat them.”

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