At the end of the final volleyball match of the 2012 season, Coach Shane Slate leaned over, put his hands on his knees and let his head hang down.
All the months of practice, travel and games had finally culminated into a second state title in the past four years. Now Slate looks to bring that championship feeling to the girls basketball team. And, he has six players who were with him on that title team moving over to hoops as well.
Despite losing departed seniors Morgan Bunker and all-state point guard Morgan Midkiff, the Lady Greyhounds are still a favorite to finish in the top two or three teams for the Northwest Conference.
Few teams can match the pure height of the Hounds’ front line, and even fewer have tall players with such skill.
Kristina Rumplasch, at 5-foot-11, is the team’s leading scorer (17.0 points), top two-point shooter (54 percent) and top three-point marksman (32.1 percent last year). She led the team in foul shots earned, third in rebounding (7.0 per game) and assists (2.1).
In the playoffs last year, Rumplasch erupted for 41 points against Forest Hills, the highest output of any girl in the Northwest Conference last season. With 784 career points, she likely will pass 1,000 midway through the conference season.
“Kristina is a matchup problem,” said Slate. She has the height to post up, but then she can step out and hit the three.
Malaya Johnson, MVP of the state volleyball championship, stands 6-foot-2 and made a big impact as a sophomore last season. She was third in scoring (11.1 pts.), first in rebounds (9.2), first in blocks (2.9) and second in foul shots earned. Despite playing the post, she also was second on the team in assists, often feeding the ball to Rumplasch on high-low plays.
Malaya has gotten better on her midrange jumper and with her ballhandling, said Slate.
With Bunker gone, look for bigger minutes for junior Erin March (5-foot-11) and senior Morgan Shadrick (5-foot-10). The two combined for five points and five rebounds a game.
With March and Shadrick able to grab offensive rebounds, Slate said he will feel more comfortable letting Rumplasch and Johnson slide outside some and show off their improved shooting.
Kristina may play more small forward than power forward, much like she did as a sophomore when her older sister Nicole played center.
Where the Hounds still have a question mark is at the point guard position. Midkiff led the conference in assists at 6.8 per game and pushed the tempo with her dribbling.
Maddison Hawks played alongside Midkiff and earned praise from Slate in the playoffs last year for her defense. The 5-foot-7 senior may have to take on more dribbling responsibilities. She struggled from the foul line last season, so she will need to improve there in case of late-game fouling tactics.
She could get help from her younger sister. Morgan Hawks likely will move up to varsity along with Jordan Badgett. The two sophomores will provide valuable minutes at the guard positions.
Beyond that, Slate said he hadn’t solidified the roster yet. He is still evaluating the younger players to decide who will be on varsity and who is on JV. That could change during the course of the season as well, depending on the growth of the players.
The Hounds already have played some exhibition games and have three games coming up this weekend.
After taking on McMichael, West Forsyth and Northwest Guilford last week, North Surry will face Ashe County, Glenn and Forbush on Saturday at Mount Airy High School. The games are slated for 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
The Hounds open the regular season Tuesday at Elkin. Senior Night is scheduled for Feb. 12 against East Surry.
Reach Jeff Linville at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1920.