CARPENTERSVILLE – Julia Moll says sometimes her Sycamore girls basketball teammates make fun of her age.
But where most teams will poke fun at the freshmen, instead it’s Moll, a senior and three-year varsity player, who is the butt of age-based jokes. For a team that often had five underclassmen on the floor last year and still returns only a couple of experienced seniors, this is just how it works.
“They make me feel young though, so it’s all right,” Moll said. “I’m friends with all of them, we’re like a family. They look up to me.”
Sycamore returns almost every key contributor from a team that went 13-13 last year. After suffering a tough loss to Hampshire in the regional semifinals, Sycamore has already set out to improve upon last year’s effort.
The Sycamore Fury, a new club team that played in four tournaments this spring, was formed exclusively for Sycamore’s freshmen and sophomores.
“It was a good experience for all of us to come together and play against better competition instead of us all going our separate ways and playing on our AAU teams or some of us not even playing in the summer,” sophomore Lauren Goff said. “It was nice to play with all of us, the younger ones.”
The Spartans also had most of their players with the team in the Dundee-Crown summer league as Sycamore has tried to instill a more up-tempo style.
With less height and more athleticism, Sycamore is looking to press and play in transition often.
For coach Brett Goff, the biggest difference he’s seen is a dramatic increase in confidence from his players, noting that the added playing time in the offseason has been vital.
“We basically have the same team we had last year. It’s been a night-and-day difference,” Brett Goff said. “It’s a little bit easier this summer on the coaches. We’ve been able to put in more of our offense and system this summer.”
Much of the offense will go through junior Bailey Gilbert. Like Moll, Gilbert will be entering her third year on the varsity and comes off a sophomore campaign in which she averaged 14.2 points per game was a Daily Chronicle All-Area first team honoree.
But Sycamore should be deeper and appears settled at the point guard spot. Goff and Moll both return after splitting time at the position last year.
Moll’s improved play was evident after competing in AAU ball in the spring and summer.
“[Moll’s] a leader out there,” Brett Goff said. “She does a good job of being vocal, being positive with the girls and giving a lot of direction on the floor.”
Sycamore hasn’t captured a regional championship since 2003, but the program appears to be on an upward trajectory.
“We know what is expected and we know what it takes to win games, a regional,” Moll said. “Now it’s our time to train and go do it. I think we have an opportunity do it.”