Lady Firebirds face tough schedule, enter post-season optimistic


Photo: Edona Banulla

Fairmont prepares to stop Wayne’s offensive push with four freshmen and one senior on the court.

Fairmont girls basketball has been known around the state in recent years for their talent and success in the post-season. This year, the young Firebirds find themselves facing a grueling scheduling as they reload with new faces and new goals.

The Birds have not had an easy path.  Having one of the toughest schedules in the area and starting the season off playing 4 games in just 7 days, the team was forced to learn quickly. 

Lacy Drake, head coach, explained how the schedule has impacted their season.

“The schedule has made this season very challenging.” she said. “There are no off nights. Every game, every opponent is a battle to the very end.”

The team has also played 7 state ranked opponents throughout the season, and almost every team on their schedule has had a winning record. 

Coach Drake, who has been coaching at Fairmont for 4 years has had to change her way of coaching this year. Coaching is a tough gig no matter what, but with just one senior and  a lot of youth, her practice plan and game strategy looks a bit different this season.

“This season has been a lot about teaching, which I love” she said. “We have watched a lot of film, and everyday we are learning something new.”

Fairmont senior, Mariah Roe has made a big impact on the team. She has been a positive leader for the team, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience, both on and off of the court. 

“I am kind of responsible for how the team acts and I’m held accountable for how we act and perform on the court,” Roe said.

Making the jump from middle school to varsity is a big one. Roe is in charge of making sure that her young teammates know the expectations of being on varsity.

Like any season, this one has presented its challenges. As a team captain, Roe is expected to be a coach on the floor, which is not always easy. 

“The hardest part of this season is needing to know when to take over on the court, knowing when I need to step up and say something or score,” Roe explained.

Freshmen Maddy Westbeld has started every game this season for the varsity team. More than just starting, she has also played a significant role on both ends of the court for the Birds. 

“I think my part on the team is to bring energy on defense,” she said.  Westbeld stressed the importance of intensity on defense and not starting a game out flat.

Westbeld was a dominant force and leader as a member of the KMS team last season. Making the transition to the varsity level has been rewarding, but also very challenging. Freshmen are usually 14 or 15 years old. Meaning they are playing against a lot of 17 and 18 year old players on opposing varsity teams. 

“Being in this environment at a young age has definitely filled me with pressure,” Westbeld said.

The varsity team includes four freshman: Makira Webster, Madison Bartley, Kierra Thornton, and Westbeld. Roe’s other veteran players include Olivia Frank, Kate Gregory, Iyerlan Alberts, Jamie Pacenta, Drew Heatherly, and Emma Martcheva. 

The Birds are 7-11 with 4 games left in the regular season. Coach Drake is optimistic entering the post season.

“Even though I don’t like the sound of 7-11, I am glad we have played a tough schedule,” she said. “We are better prepared for what the tournament will bring.”

Each season brings new challenges and obstacles. But, what defines a team is how they handle those circumstances and rise above.

“It is my job as a coach to work with the strengths and skills that my players bring to the table” Drake said. “Everyday I am studying and searching for ways to make these kids more successful.”