After having a disappointing season last year, ending with a 1-11 record, the girls varsity basketball team at South has put in a great effort to improve the quality of effort on the team. Under varsity coach Tom Umstatter, the team has vastly improved their game, and has even thought of making the playoffs, something that hasn't been achieved for the past 15 years, as a great possibility.
This year, the team has paced second out of 11 other teams in the conference, and has a 4-1 record. They have played Lawrence, Hicksville, and Mepham High Schools so far. The only game they lost was their second one at Lawrence. During the summer, for the first time, a clinic and summer league program, located in Island Garden, was developed and attended by most of the team. There, the team was able to put in much practice, and build up the skills that needed advancement. The clinic helped show the devotion that the girls had for the sport. After much hard work, the team created a successful work ethic, and an organized practice schedule that lasts two and half hours every day for six days. Their incredible results prove that their new plan was worth the effort.
"Things are wonderful, we've reached the peak where we wanted to be, and our work ethic is really paying off," said Umstatter.
None of the team members stand out, and they all tend to complete each other. Their different efforts, talents and skills form a balanced team. Everyone contributes to a common goal, and altogether, the team is a diversified group made up of various students that are capable of doing many things when they put their minds to it.
Umstatter hopes to extend the program to many other students. The team already does clinics in the middle school to prepare the younger kids there for practice, and to bridge the gap between the middle school and high school. There, older students try to teach younger ones not to shy away from the sport. They teach them about different skills and about working together well.
"The team definitely possesses a positive attitude, they work together well, are unified, and deal well with everything. There is nothing that they can't handle, they never back down from a challenge, the group is very focused, and there is great chemistry in the team," said Umstatter.
The strongest players on the team include seniors Shanita McPhatter, Simone Lelchuck and Pamela Ostrover. Ostrover and Lelchuck are the team captains, and bring much spirit to the team. The group of players consists of students ranging from ninth to 12th grade. There are high expectations for freshman Elizabeth Ku, the youngest player on the team. The girls basketball season runs from Nov. 15 to Feb. 19. The team will play 12 league games, and 18 overall throughout the season. So far, they have played six non-league games, with a record of 3-3.
Umstatter believes that the team is getting closer each day they go out to the court, to make it to the playoffs. The upperclassmen have done an unbelievable job of supporting and guiding the lowerclassmen on the team, an unusual situation. They help each other out and take care of one another.
The team has really changed since last year, turning over a new leaf. The combination of new players, and team's adjustment to their new skill level, and the confidence that they have gained from winning games have proven to be some of the main reasons why the team has improved so much. Also, the team has gotten a chance to get more accustomed to the way Umstatter coaches, his techniques, and his plans.
"This year we have a new team that's doing a really good job, everyone's working really well together, and the people's dedication has definitely improved our team greatly," said Lelchuck, team captain.
This is Umstatter's second year coaching at South. Prior to this, he coached at North, and before that, in Manhattan. All together, he has coached girls basketball for approximately 15 years. The assistant to the team, Stew Fritz, also directs girls softball at South, and used to coach at North.