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Winter brings major progress for Taylorville girls

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TAYLORVILLE — The 2022 Taylorville girls basketball team. From left to right: Aubrey Kietzman, Jessi Wright, Lia Champley, Megan Czajkowski, Kyleigh Heimsness, Mazie Fleming, Addison Tarr, Olivia Woodward, Hallie Lowis, Leila Wheeler and Alyvia McCullough.

Lucas Domonousky Breeze-Courier Sports Editor

TAYLORVILLE — The Tornadoes kept their head just above water though the 27 game season last year finishing with a decent record of 14-13. The extremely young core and lack of experience made it difficult to accomplish too much success.

“Last season went very well.” Head Coach Hayden Eldred says. “We had a very young team, so it was filled with highs and lows, but we finished over .500 for the first time in a long time. With those young players back, we look to improve and have a more consistent season.”

Eldred is headed into his third season as the Taylorville girls Head Coach says his short time here has already been a ride.

“I grew up loving all sports and learning new things about each game. Basketball was one I spent quite a bit of time doing and have always appreciated all

the different qualities and strategies the game has to offer. So as a coach, I can really challenge myself to learn everything I can and teach these young athletes everything they can before taking the next steps of their lives, on and off the court. My experience as a Head Coach so far has been fun and quite interesting. The first year was the makeshift “covid season” so everything was thrown together quickly and had its unique challenges throughout the year. Last year and this season have not started the way I had originally planned as far as preparation. With our Volleyball program making great runs in the postseason I have had to adjust the practice schedules quite a bit, but overall it is has been a pleasure to get to work with these players day in and day out through winter season.”

The 2022-’23 season has already gotten off to the start any coach would be proud of. The team, as of the first six games of the season, has a record of four wins and two losses. They opened up the season with a trip to the Championship game at their own Taylorville Holiday tournament which took place through last week.

Returning all five starters from late last year will only result in positive play. Juniors Aubrey Kietzman and Olivia Woodward will be at the forefront of this team. Right there next to them are three sophomore difference makers Addison Tarr, Mazie Fleming and Kyleigh Heimsness who are prepared to see a spike in playing time from here throughout their careers. Senior shooting guard Alyvia McCullough will be the go to option off the bench. The team has plenty of roll players as well including sophomore Lia Champley and juniors Jessi Wright, Hallie Lowis and Megan Czajkowski. Each of these players understand they make up something larger than them and play their roll beautifully.

“We lost Senior Summer Brandis who started a lot for us and did a lot of hustle plays that every coach needs on the floor.” Eldred states. “That being said we have several players that have great talent and experience with basketball all year round that we will look to step up into a more vocal role this season.”

Looking ahead, the future of the girls basketball program looks incredibly bright. If they keep focusing on one game at a time a State run is not out of the question.

“Every game will be key for us, regardless of any outcome, as long as we are improving and learning to play together at a high level.” Eldred finishes. “We will be back at the StateFarm Holiday Classic in Bloomington for the first time in a long time this December. There are so many great teams in the tournament. It will be a great experience for us, a great way to see where we fall and what we need to improve on to get to where we strive to be in February.”

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