Former Underclassman Lead Vikings Into New Season< < Back to
At the start of the season last year, the Vinton County Vikings had to replace TVC-Ohio MVP Jordan Kidd and five other seniors who helped lead the team. This year, the Vikings had to adapt to losing another senior, Alex Owings, to graduation during the off season. Graduation is an unavoidable problem in every high school, but it can be blessing as well. This is evident in the fact that this season the Vikings are set to start off with a range of players who spent a lot of time learning under those leaders.
A new season means a clean record and a renewed chance at making a deep tournament run. Last year, the young Vikings squad finished 12-8, but were booted out of the playoffs after a 10-point fourth quarter collapse against Sheridan in the first round of the 2014 district tournament.
Those younger players are now upperclassmen and one of those players is AP Southeast All-District special mention Jordan Albright. Albright is a junior this year and he’s coming off a season where he also made it onto Hardwood Heroes All-Hero watch-list. The junior was a huge scoring threat last year and has the potential to be a major contributor for the Vikings offense this season.
“Jordan Albright, Tristan Bartoe, Chase Wood and Max Ward are probably our four returning guys with the most experience,” coach Matt Combs said.
Junior Wood has a year of experience under his belt and Ward is looking to be one of the senior leaders that the team has relied on in previous years.
Combs is excited about the growth of his team and he hopes the extra year has not only helped the boys grow mentally, but physically as well.
“Not only are you a year older and wiser from a mental standpoint but hopefully your bigger and stronger physically so hopefully it will help both ways,” Combs said.
And with all of that he has returning this season, Combs said that his expectations of the season are higher than usual.
“I think our expectations are a little bit higher this year than they were last (year) just because we have some more experience,” he said. “We always have high expectations of ourselves, to be honest with you, we always want to do well in our league and then try to make as deep of a tournament run as we can.”
That tournament run will all be based around how well the Vikings can bond with each other and the key to doing so will be spreading the floor and keeping active on offense.
“We typically play a wide open style, we tend to try to play quick and have a lot of ball movement,” Combs said. “And, we’re not afraid to take the outside shot. That’s kind of the way we try to run our offense.”
With expectations rising, the Vikings will be on the look out to get team chemistry and leadership figured out early on in the season. Vinton County’s first game is scheduled for Dec. 6 against Bloom Carroll.
The Vinton County Lady Vikings are also seeing some rotational changes coming into this season. The Lady Vikings will be without three major senior pieces in 2014-15 after losing Xan Hale, Megan Dixon, and Jamee Park to graduation.
Not only have their previous senior leaders departed, but the team also has a new coach at the helm. Rod Bentley, out of Logan, takes over Mark Dixon’s place on the sideline. Dixon resigned at the end of last season for personal reasons.
The Lady Vikings finished off last year with a 14-9 record after they lost in the second round of the district tournament. Just like the boys team, that district tournament loss came at the hands of the Sheridan Generals.
The girls are also transitioning underclassmen into the leaders of the team, such as junior Michaela Puckett. Puckett received All-District First Team honors last season after posting impressive numbers in her sophomore season. Even with a new coach, the coaching staff for Puckett won’t be comprised of entirely new face as Rebecca Puckett, Michaela’s sister, was hired as an assistant coach this off season. Rebecca also has a previous relationship with Bentley.
But the Lady Vikings won’t be able to rely on only Michaela Puckett. Vinton County will be littered with juniors who got valuable floor time last year such as Jalen Hale. Hale found her stride late in 2014 and drew some serious attention after scoring 29 total points in the Lady Vikings two playoff games.
The Lady Vikings only had nine players on the varsity roster last season, meaning that without an influx of freshman they could be looking at another season with a relatively short bench.
But despite a depth problem, the Lady Vikings will be determined not to be slowed down in their quest for the TVC-Ohio crown.