Outsider’s Perspective (By Kevin Trudgeon): 81 and counting...
I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get this column in in time.
With the early Thanksgiving break and the start of the winter sports season immediately following, I knew I wouldn’t have a chance to write about the Millbrook girls’ basketball team before it played its first game of the year.
And with the departure of seven seniors, including the triumphant trio of Courtni Green, Alisha Mobley and Sara Mead who have all taken their talents to the college level (Green at Delware, Mobley at Lenoir-Rhyne and Mead at Columbia), there was no telling what was in store for the Pioneers.
Riding a state-record 80 straight wins and three consecutive Group AA state championships, the Millbrook program is the epitome of a powerhouse, but with so many new faces (there are only four returners from last year’s team and just three seniors on the roster) I worried the team might stumble out of the gate and force me to rethink my topic.
Somewhere Debby Sanders is shaking her head with a you-should-know-better look on her face.
Granted Briar Woods went 11-13 last season and probably won’t fall into the category of toughest competition this year, but the way the Pioneers went about their season-opening 76-22 win over the Falcons had to raise more than a few eyebrows.
They pressed. They forced turnovers. They pushed the tempo. And they won in convincing fashion.
In other words, they played exactly like the Millbrook teams of the past three years.
New faces, new names, same results.
Not that anyone should be surprised. When you’ve won as many games playing a certain way as Sanders and her coaching staff have, why would you ever feel the need to change it?
And although this year’s batch of Pioneers may not have the same star power without Green, Mobley and Mead suiting up — although to be fair you’d be hard-pressed to find many teams in the entire state that could measure up to that criteria — there is plenty of talent on the roster.
Seniors Brooke Borlie, Ky Rooks and Ashley Goodman have all gone to battle for Millbrook in the past, the underclassmen are eager to contribute and junior Brenna Cook, a transfer from Central, could prove to be the key ingredient to keep the Pioneers’ run of dominance going.
Will they go undefeated for a fourth straight year?
Will they win a fourth straight state title?
The odds are against them.
If they fail to do either does that mean their season is a failure?
There are plenty of teams out there, both locally and around Virginia, that are eager to exact some revenge on a Millbrook program that has run roughshod over the competition the last three years.
If they’ll actually get the chance remains to be seen.
The Pioneers face Heritage (Leesburg) twice, including in their home opener on Saturday, they’ll play in the competitive Battlefield Tournament (Dec. 7-8) which will include multiple Group AAA teams and the defending Group A, Division 2 state champions in George Mason, and will have two highly anticipated matchups with Sherando in Northwestern District play.
A betting man would say that somewhere along the way they will slip up.
Whether they just have a bad game or run into an opponent that is simply better, the law of averages say it’s bound to happen.
Of course those same laws would have said winning 81 in a row was out of the realm of possibility.
— Kevin Trudgeon is the sports editor at The Winchester Star