MORRIS – A couple of seasons ago, Romeoville put the finishing touches on its third straight girls basketball season with 20-plus victories.
With Kiera Currie, Abby Smith and Angelica Osusky among the leaders, coach Julio Carrasco basically was able to pencil in the same starting lineup for all of those three seasons.
The girls in the following couple of classes benefited from being able to watch a good team operate, and some were able to go against them in practice. But they sometimes did not have the opportunity to see meaningful minutes at game time.
The result last winter was a group searching for leadership. The Spartans finished 7-21, including 5-9 in the Southwest Prairie Conference.
Romeoville has been busy this summer, highlighted by appearances in shootouts at Morris, East Aurora and University of St. Francis. Carrasco understandably has not concerned himself with the number of wins and losses, but he knows there have been positive signs.
"We've been using a five-in and five-out system this summer," Carrasco said. "We want to see which girls can play against good competition.
"Last year was a struggle with us losing everyone from the year before. This summer we have lost some games but we have been in every game except the ones against teams like Trinity, state-caliber teams."
At that, the Spartans faced Trinity last Friday at USF and were within 19-12 at halftime.
"We fell apart from their pressure in the second half," Carrasco said. "They took it to us and dictated the game.
"But we played good defense in the first half. We've been stressing that. To hold them to 19 points in the half was phenomenal because a lot of their points come off steals."
Among those the Spartans will count on next season are freshman center Jahari Smith and sophomore point guard Lexi Marin, the scoring leader a year ago with an 11.4 average. "We have to get a lot better finishing on offense," Carrasco said.
Smith and Marin are young. The upperclass leadership, which Carrasco said the Spartans must have, could come from returning All-Southwest Prairie selection Cherish Smith, Skye Osborne and Jade Warner. Smith averaged 8.6 points and 7.9 rebounds last year. Osborne, the Spartans' best defender, is a captain.
"I yell from the bench, of course," Carrasco said. "Right now we don't have someone on the floor chewing them out if they're not doing the job. Everyone talks about finding a leader by example, and that's good, but you want to have a vocal leader, too. You can't force it on them, though."
It goes back to maturity, individually and as a team.
"Last year was these girls' first shot at the spotlight," Carrasco said. "They really didn't accomplish anything the last three years. We can coat it any way we want, but the truth is, they don't have much experience.
"When we got in a rough spot in the schedule last year, it was hard to get out of it. They say if you're hot, you keep shooting, and if you're not, you keep shooting until you get hot. Our girls need to develop that kind of attitude."
The Spartans will take a break after this week until reconvening the last week of July.
"You can't see them more than the 25 days the IHSA allows," Carrasco said. "We've been busy to this point, and we wanted to have a little more time to see them later in the summer."