CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – A winless season would be a disappointing season for many. But for Julia Manley and the Notre Dame girls basketball team, winning isn’t everything.
The Irish went through a lot of changes in the past few seasons. A depleting roster, coaching change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Manley, who is believed to be the youngest high school basketball coach in the state, took over the team last season.
The Irish had a tough season on paper. They were unable to get a win in the column. And with only eight players on her roster again, it looks to be another rebuilding year for Manley and company.
But Manley and the team appreciate what they were able to accomplish last season. That includes just being able to have a season and learning a lot along the way.
“Well I think that season meant a lot to all of us. It was my first time varsity coaching. It was also their first time being out there and being able to play with their friends again because of COVID and everything that happened in between that,” Manley said. “I think we were able to just go out there and learn something. That was my biggest thing that I decided I wanted to do. I wanted to make sure that they learned something and had fun playing basketball. I think that was my number one goal.”
Manley sure has built a positive culture surrounding the team in her short stint.
Notre Dame has two returners in junior Zyla Lanham and senior Carmela Lilly. Both players value the bonds they’ve helped create within their small program and they prove that winning doesn’t always mean everything.
“I played in middle school and then I didn’t play my freshman or sophomore year. Then when a couple of the seniors came up to me last year and were like ‘Oh, we don’t know if we’re going to have enough for a team,’ I was like you know what I’ll just do it so the people who have played for their whole high school career can have a team and actually get out there and I just had so much fun,” Lilly said.
“Winning, it’s fun. But it’s not everything. Just being here with the team is what I’m here for. I love basketball and having a good team definitely makes that love so much more,” Lanham said.
The Irish still search for their first win under Manley.
One thing is certain, when the buzzer goes off when that win happens- it will be very special.