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FDA JV girls basketball squad debuts five new starters

Despite losing all five starters from last year’s team, FDA head JV coach Regina Parker is confident that this year’s team is one of the stronger teams of recent memory. From the front row, left to right: Hayden Fail, Mary Katherine Salter, Catherine Pope, Shalyn Halford and Sydney Folds. Back row, left to right: Coach Regina Parker, Hannah Sells, Emma Thomas, Kaylin Gregory, Jamie Pickens and Ginny Coker.

Despite losing all five starters from last year’s team, FDA head JV coach Regina Parker is confident that this year’s team is one of the stronger teams of recent memory. From the front row, left to right: Hayden Fail, Mary Katherine Salter, Catherine Pope, Shalyn Halford and Sydney Folds. Back row, left to right: Coach Regina Parker, Hannah Sells, Emma Thomas, Kaylin Gregory, Jamie Pickens and Ginny Coker.

It’s been a nine-game gauntlet in just three days for the Fort Dale Academy junior varsity girls basketball team as the girls hit the road to kick off a busy summer.

Lee-Scott Academy hosted a tournament consisting of AISA opponents last Friday, and Monday and Tuesday saw the Lady Eagles participating in a two-day camp at Birmingham Southern that featured more than 20 varsity and junior varsity opponents from around the state.

And though the Lady Eagles faced their share of hardships over the weeks, the hurdle that FDA head junior varsity basketball coach Regina Parker is most proud of the team overcoming is also the most personal one.

“The team dynamic has changed a lot,” Parker said.

“We don’t have any returning starters.”

Both Anna Blake Langford, Lucy Bates and other former JV players have gone on to become rather large parts of Fort Dale’s varsity squad, which leaves the current JV roster in a state of upheaval.

Fortunately, Parker is more than confident in the players filling those rather sizable shoes.

“The challenge we have this year is learning to work together as a new set of five starters,” Parker added.

“I have five ninth graders and five eighth graders returning, which are my first and second strings.  Those strings worked very well with each other both [Tuesday] and last Friday.  My starting point guard is Mary Katherine Salter, and our other ninth graders to watch are Hayden Fail, Hannah Sells, Kaylin Gregory and Emma Thomas.”

This year’s junior varsity squad may lack in experience starting for the team, but they compensate with a remarkably well-rounded roster.

“We’re not going to have any one man to go to; they all score evenly among themselves,” Parker said.

“They’ve all stepped up and they can drive to the goal.  We’ve worked on free throws and passing, and we did so much better today than yesterday that one of the officials asked us “is this the same team you brought yesterday, or is this another set of girls?’ They’re constantly improving, and that’s a good sign for the fall.”

In addition to playing six regular games during the Birmingham Southern camp, the girls participated in a late-night tournament consisting of short five-minute matches against various opponents, including varsity teams of 10th and 11th graders.

Despite the odds being stacked against the comparatively young Lady Eagles squad, Parker said her team did well in holding their own against larger and more experienced teams.  And it’s the experiences of the summer that contribute to the strength of Fort Dale’s junior varsity girls teams, whose accolades include a state runner-up spot in the AISA tournament just two seasons ago.

“They always look forward to coming, and we spend the night so that we can have team bonding where they get together and talk about things on and off the court,” Parker said.  “This group actually sat and drew up plays and things that they wanted to work on.

“Most importantly, our girls get along so well and they’re always encouraging each other.  When one person falls, there’s always four girls to pick them back up and it’s just a constant encouraging thing from this group.”