Dailey: This is the deepest, most talented team I’ve had since I’ve been here
(Nov. 30, 2018) The Worcester Prep girls’ basketball team competed in two scrimmages during the preseason and, after the second one earlier week, Coach Scot Dailey said this “could be a special season.”
“This is the deepest, most talented team I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Dailey said. “With that brings some expectations from me to me, from me to them, from the community to them. Everyone knows that we should be pretty good.”
If the Lady Mallards can take over leadership of the squad from the coaching staff, Dailey said there will be no stopping them.
“I believe if they start to take ownership and [make] it be their team, the sky’s the limit,” he said. “I told them that on the first day of practice. If me, [assistant coaches] Aaron [Wyatt] and Katie [Oxenreider] are being the leaders, then we’re just going to be pretty good.”
Ten of the 12 players on Dailey’s roster were members of the varsity team last year that finished 14-6. They were the runner-up in the Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference, falling to Delmarva Christian, 44-42, in the championship game.
Worcester also lost to Delmarva Christian twice during the regular season and Dailey said the Mallards are looking to come out on the winning end this year.
“They’re all back. They remember the sting of losing by two points in the championship game last year and getting beat by that team three times,” he said. “They’re looking for redemption.”
With so many players returning, Dailey said the team has depth and experience, and is almost picking up where it left off in February.
“We’re definitely more advanced in our practices than we have been in the past. We’re a little ahead in some things than we were at this point last year,” the fourth-year coach said. “They know what’s expected and they know the plays. Some stuff we’ve briefly gone over, but they remember. They’re picking everything up quickly.”
Seniors Hailey Merritt and Gracie Gardner were captains last year and will lead the team again this season.
Both girls earned All-Conference honors for their performance during the 2017-18 season.
Merritt was voted team MVP by the Mallards. She led the squad in points with 205 and assists (32). She was second in steals (51).
“I think with a lot of talking we’ll be able to help lead the team [and] get the ball moving a lot more; it will help to get the game moving a lot quicker,” Merritt, a three-year varsity player, said. “I feel like I have a presence. They kind of look at me for guidance.”
Since the girls have been playing together for a few years now, Merritt said they are jelling.
“Our glue is already there,” the guard said. “We played over the summer, so we’re a well-seasoned team. We all just want to work on our communication [and], once we get that going, hopefully we’ll win a lot of games and have a lot of fun.”
Gardner finished second in points last season with 183. She was the top rebounder (156) and recorded the most blocks (41).
“The program’s definitely grown since freshman year. We’ve gotten better and better each year and the seniors have always held an important position as leaders, so I’m looking forward to stepping into that position,” Gardner said. “I’m looking forward to the season and just having fun with everyone … Our goal always is for everyone to play together as a unit and play our best.”
Gardner, a center, has been a member of the team for four years. She had to sit out her sophomore year while recovering from a knee injury, so she was a team manager then.
Dailey also expects the defense to be robust. “Defensive stoppers Carly Hoffman and Delaney Abercrombie [will] bring the tenacious defense back again,” he said.
Hoffman, a junior, also received All-ESIAC accolades. She led the team in steals (61) and was third in assists (23).
Abercrombie, a senior, logged 27 assists last season, the second highest on the team.
Dailey said he is excited to have freshman Lily Baeurle join the team.
“She’ll make an instant impact,” he said.
“She’s going to give us the dynamic we haven’t had in a while,” Wyatt added. “She’s going to add a whole different look to our team with what she can do offensively.”
Dailey said all 12 girls are capable of playing and, when he does make a substitution, the team won’t lose a step on the court.
“We’re just trying to find the right mix, because some girls got better from last year and we added two that are both very skilled,” he said. “Trying to find minutes for 12 players might be my biggest obstacle.”
The goal this year is to win the regular season and be the No. 1 seed for the Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference tournament.
“This is the first graduating class. The seven seniors were all freshmen when I started,” Dailey said. We’ve been to three championships and they’ve all been on the road. We want to host this year and win it. I’m super excited.”
Worcester will participate in the Indian River Tip-Off Classic this weekend in Delaware. The Mallards will play Indian River at 7:30 p.m. today, Friday, and Delmar at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.