ARGYLE — The tone in Skip Townsend’s voice when he scans the court and sees the Argyle Lady Eagles shooting free throws at the end of practice indicates how he feels about the upcoming season.
He looks around the gym, pointing out the incumbent and incoming players that will play a role in helping Argyle advance further in the postseason than it did last season.
For a third straight year, he’ll have center Delaney Sain to rely on. The 5-foot-11 junior has started her first two seasons, which are also Townsend’s first two seasons as the Lady Eagles’ head coach after six state championships in 10 years at Brock.
Both Sain and Townsend will enter their third year with each other today, which is the first day teams can play their first game this season.
Sain was last season’s Denton Record-Chronicle’s Offensive Player of the Year after she averaged 13.6 points a game and shot more than 61 percent from the field. Before this season even starts, Townsend can already see changes in the team’s leading scorer from last season.
“Here’s what we’ve got onto Delaney about ever since she was a freshman: She takes time off,” Townsend said. “In the game, she plays hard, and then there’s a lapse in there where she’s not playing hard. And I haven’t seen that one second this year. So that’s the big change in her.”
Sain has improved her game tremendously since she started for the Lady Eagles as a freshman, Townsend said.
When she started out, she mainly stuck with a turnaround jump shot. The coaching staff worked with Sain to develop her moves around the basket to increase her versatility.
Along with many of her teammates, Sain played over the summer and went to a summer camp to improve her skills. She will be the focal point of an Argyle team that only has two seniors — Kim Strelke and Bailey Eschle.
“This year I feel more confident in myself, and I feel like I’ve put enough work in to feel good about when I go out there, and I feel good about my skills and what I can do,” Sain said.
Sain won’t be alone in helping Argyle advance to the Class 3A Region II tournament, something that was denied to the Lady Eagles after they lost to Krum in the regional quarterfinals.
Four freshmen will be at Townsend’s disposal this season, including perimeter players Madison Ralston and Vivian Gray. Strelke has fully recovered from a knee injury she suffered in District 10-3A play last season, and Townsend said junior guard Jesse Sheridan has greatly improved over the summer.
Sheridan said the time the team spent playing over the summer, something it had never done, was beneficial for the Lady Eagles.
“I think us playing over the summer was kind of different,” Sheridan said. “We’ve never done that. It made us work together, and I think it’s given us an advantage coming into the season because we already know how some of the younger people play.”
Sheridan also said she’s noticed Sain become more athletic and is able to use her size more to her advantage. Sheridan also noticed Sain grow stronger mentally.
“I think that she’s gotten a lot tougher,” Sheridan said. “Coach Townsend’s a great coach. He gives you constructive criticism, and I think she’s learned to take that a lot more and hear more of what he’s been saying, rather than worrying about his tone.”
Townsend said the team sat down and made one of its goals to reach the regional tournament in Commerce, where Krum won last year and advanced to the state tournament. Sain said she thinks a lot more will be expected of the team this year, and the infusion of the freshmen will help the team go where it wants.
This year, Sain will no longer be a stalwart youngster but a player who knows what will be required of herself and what her role will be as a two-year letterman.
“It’s different this year because I don’t feel like an underclassman,” Sain said. “I feel like a leader. I feel like I need to step up and show from example. I think that’s my main role, is showing by example because we have a lot of great vocal leaders here, and I just try to show by example what needs to be done.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.
RYAN LADY RAIDERS
Head coach: Monesha Allen (13th year as head coach, all at Ryan)
2012-13 record: 15-18 (bi-district finalist)
Player to watch: SF Carissa Sanders
DENTON LADY BRONCOS
Head Coach: Dennis Krishka (eighth year at Denton, 38th overall)
2012-13 record: 9-20
Key Players: PG April Pena, SG Mariah Seastrunk, P Jordan Mazziotta
GUYER LADY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Harold Colson (fourth year at Guyer, 11th year overall,)
2012-13 record: 23-9 (area finalist)
Players to watch: G Quamese Moss, F/C Bri Wickware, G Ola Akinniyi, F/C Madi Franklin
LAKE DALLAS LADY FALCONS
Head coach: Jonathan Lee (second year overall, second at Lake Dallas)
2012-13 record: 8-24
Players to watch: G Ashley Hayes, G Brielle Brown, G Kelsey Tuck
KRUM LADY CATS
Head coach: Lana Degelia (11th year at Krm, 13th overall)
2012-13 record: 29-7 (state semifinalist)
Players to watch: G Caylee Thomas, C Kylee Myers
SANGER LADY INDIANS
Head coach: Jack Armstrong (eighth year at Sanger, 22nd overall)
2012-13 record: 17-15 (bi-district finalist)
Players to watch: J Kierstin Bradley, PG Carissa Spiker, G Corey Hammonds
ARGYLE LADY EAGLES
Head coach: Skip Townsend (third year at Argyle, 41st overall)
2012-13 record: 28-7 (regional quarterfinalist)
Players to watch: C Delaney Sain, G Jesse Sheridan, G/F Kim Strelke
AUBREY LADY CHAPS
Head coach: Johnny Hodge (12th year, all at Aubrey)
2012-13 record: 11-21
Player to watch: C Kendyl Wright
PILOT POINT LADY CATS
Head coach: Todd Bramlett (fourth year at Pilot Point, 21st overall)
2012-13 record: 9-19
Key players: G Allison Ray, C. Abby Switzer, G Hydeia Chancellor
PONDER LADY LIONS
Head coach: Greg Gay (first year at Ponder, 21st overall)
2012-13 record: 15-18
Key players: G Jessica Orozco, F Lauren Pittman, C Macie Simpson
LIBERTY CHRISTIAN LADY WARRIORS
District: TAPPS 1-5A
Head coach: Ken Burroughs (eighth year at Liberty, 37th overall)
2012-13 record: 25-14 (state finalist)
Players to watch: G Hannah Hand, G Rebekah Hand, G Sydney Goodson