With the high school basketball season underway, the Daniel Boone Lady Blazers are methodically and incrementally getting better. They are currently 2-5 with a 0-2 Berks League record.
One of the bright spots for the team is junior Shelby Vanderslice, who is an experienced player on a relatively young team, which includes six freshmen.
'We're playing well together so far,' Vanderslice said, 'We have a lot of new girls that have come up, and there's still a lot of work to be done. We need to come together and play as a single unit, and that includes working together toward one common goal. Our play could be a little better, yes, but the majority of us haven't played together before, and we just have to work on getting better each game.'
Vanderslice said the team includes one senior, one junior (beside herself), two sophomores and six freshmen. The junior noted that there is a big difference between playing eighth grade and varsity level basketball, and all the younger players are seeing varsity time, which is great experience.
In previous years, Vanderslice said the team has been made up of many more experienced players than what the squad is comprised of this season.
'In my freshman year, there were five seniors, and they had very high goals for the squad. For us this year, we're not going to underestimate ourselves.
'We may have a young team, but we still have the talent to take us far. We just have to put it all together. The ultimate goal for the year is to come together as a team, work as hard as we can, take what we have forward, and hopefully shock people. I know we have the ability to do it, we just have to put forth the effort.'
For herself, the junior said she wants her team to come together as a family, and she wants her team to be able to go out and shock a lot of people.
'There are a lot of people who doubt us, and they don't think that we can be very good,' she said. 'My personal goal would be to have us all work together and prove them wrong.'
Vanderslice is a two guard (shooting guard) on the team who likes to be the assist maker. She noted that she likes to drive into the lane and then kick the ball out to one of her teammates.
'I like to go out and create things out there on the floor,' said Vanderslice. 'Sometimes I feel that if I take the shot myself, it might not be the best option, so I'll look for the open man.'
But what makes Shelby most valuable is her defensive abilities. She usually goes up against the other team's top scorer, trying her best to keep that player's scoring totals down.
Vanderslice was second on the team in scoring last season. However, she commented that you score off of your defense in general, and noted that if she plays solid defense, the points will come her way.
'I'm not worried about scoring,' she said. 'I'm more concerned about the team. My job is to clamp down on defense, then get the ball up to one of my teammates that is heading toward the basket.' She went on to say that a bucket is a bucket, whether she scores or one of her teammates does.
'I don't feel pressure having to cover an opponent's better players,' said Vanderslice. 'Sometimes I get physical and I forget that I have to lay off the hand contact and focus on creating less fouls. In the last few games, I've been really working on it, so I don't necessarily feel pressure to perform when I'm playing defense, I rather look at it as a compliment because I enjoy going out there and doing it.'
Vanderslice does sometimes get frustrated on the defensive side of the ball
'If I feel like if I'm not performing up to my level, I'll get a little riled, but I just have to remember that I have to go out and play defense the way I know how to play,' she commented. 'I do get a little frustrated out there, but I try and push it out of my mind and tell myself I can do it.'
Vanderslice is a leader on the relatively young squad because she has the experience of being on the team.
'I had some varsity minutes as a freshman, and I've seen how the seniors ahead of me have displayed their leadership,' she said. ' try to emulate what they did. However, I think I lead more by example. I hustle when I'm on the floor and I try to motivate my teammates when we may be having a down moment on the court.
'I see that the younger girls look to the upperclassmen a lot. They're very independent and they know what they need to do at practice, or within a game situation. They're a very smart, up and coming class. However, if the girls are ever in a deer in the headlights moment, they know they can turn to us for guidance.'
To be successful this year, Shelby said the squad has to come together as a unit and work together every game.
'We have to let the frustration go,' she said. 'Sometimes it hangs there and it takes away from our game. We've learned so far this year in order to go far, we all have to be a cohesive unit, and be together in everything we do.'