While other girls’ basketball teams used non-conference play to build confidence, Madison Coach Kirsten Stone used it as a learning tool, scheduling arguably the toughest non-conference slate in Northern Virginia.
In December, the Warhawks faced five teams who have seen time in the Post’s Top 20.
With junior forward Kelly Koshuta (24 points per game) in the post, Madison hung tough in those matchups but ultimately entered the new year 4-6. But they have bounced back from the rough start to win three of their last four and improve to .500.
“They’re a great group, and we never talked about having a losing season; we just looked toward the next game,” Stone said. “They work hard every day in practice and it’s been a good year, even as we sit at .500.”
Koshuta hasn’t shown any ill effects from the torn ACL in her left knee that kept her sidelined for the entire 2012-13 season. She is second in the area in scoring and has seen double and triple teams this year thanks to three 30-point games on her resume.
“It’s tough, but I’ve learned how to play through it to score,” Koshuta said. “Some teams are different in how they defend me, and my guards are really good at getting me the ball in the correct place for me to score.”
Madison (7-7) is without a true point guard, Stone says, so the ball-handling duties have been split between the multiple guards in the rotation.
Senior Katie Kerrigan has seen significant time as the lead guard but she is more prolific on the defensive side of the ball, with a penchant for forcing turnovers.
In Friday’s 65-45 rout at McLean (13-1), Kerrigan scored a career-high 19 points to become the first Warhawks player not named Koshuta to lead the team in scoring through 14 games. Madison hit eight three-pointers in the win.
“My shot was on the other night,” Kerrigan said. “My teammates got me the ball and I had a lot of open looks. I’m known for my defense, but it’s also nice to have my offense come along.”
The Warhawks believe those December matchups have helped them grow as they get deeper into Conference 6 play, where the final seven conference games count toward seeding in the conference tournament.
The non-conference games “helped us a lot because we played some of the region’s best,” Koshuta said. “We’ve grown so much and fixed problems and become a better team. By February, we should be that team people want to beat.”
Senior guard Sasha Sprei has played for sixth-ranked South Lakes’ varsity team since she was a freshman. And on Saturday, the floor leader picked up her first double-double as she scored 13 points and dished out 10 assists in the Seahawks’ fifth straight win.
The 5-foot-4 Sprei has always shown the ability to find teammates Abigail Rendle (William and Mary) and Caitlin Jensen (Mary Washington), but she picked up the scoring load against a more aggressive Franklin County (Rocky Mount) team.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” Sprei said. “I’ve shown I can contribute as a point and involving my teammates is my No. 1 goal. They always reward me by knocking down their shots.”
The Seahawks travel to McLean on Tuesday for the first of two matchups in Conference 6 play.