After it narrowly missed the postseason last year, New Caney is aiming high in the 2019-20 season.
The Lady Eagles went 16-17 last season and placed fifth in District 20-5A. With three of their five starters back, the goal isn’t just to earn a spot in the top four.
“We’re setting our goals high,” Lady Eagles coach Tricia Mize said in a recent phone interview. “We talk about it every day — we want to be district champs and we won’t settle for anything less. That’s what our goal is.”
Two of New Caney’s three returning starters were All-Montgomery County first team selections a year ago. Senior Abigail Lynch and junior Tori Garza combined to average 33 points per game in 2018-19, more than three-fourths of the Lady Eagles’ average per game.
Both are expected to be key contributors again this season. Garza will be a late arrival to basketball practices because she played volleyball in the fall. Lynch has spent the offseason growing as a leader.
“(Lynch) has grown into her own,” Mize said. “You can tell she’s a senior. She has that one year of leadership under her belt from last year and this year she’s hungry. We missed the playoffs last year and she’s really working hard and encouraging the girls. Just really kind of stepped out of her comfort zone and put on her leadership hat. She’s leading the way.”
The senior leadership has helped drive home messages from Mize, too.
“It takes the pressure off of me,” she said. “It’s one thing for a coach to tell a team to do one thing. When a player actually steps up and has trust in their coach and she’s echoing everything you’re saying, the girls latch onto that better than what they do when I say it because I’m not the one out there doing it, they are.”
Madison Kretzschmar, a senior, is the third returning starter back for New Caney.
Two newcomers are expected to contribute as well. Junior Micha Mize, Tricia’s daughter, transferred over from Atascocita and was granted immediate varsity eligibility.
“I’m really looking forward to coaching her and she’ll be a huge impact for us as well,” the coach said. “She’ll add some depth to us. That’s exciting.”
Mic’Kayla Lestridge, who played on junior varsity last season, is also expected to step up.
“She’s quick and can jump out of the sky,” Mize said. “She’s just an athlete so I’m looking forward to see what she can add as well.”
Standing in the way of New Caney’s goals are nine other District 20-5A teams. The already-large district adds Grand Oaks this season and will feature an 18-game district schedule that begins on Dec. 3.
“I really think adding Grand Oaks this year and Lake Creek having a year under their belt — it’s just going to be tougher,” Mize said. “We like tough games and like the competition and to bring out the best in the girls. I think it’s anybody’s game.”
The competition will start before district play for the Lady Eagles, too. Not including tournament play, New Caney will take on three Class 6A programs — Bridgeland, Clear Creek and Kingwood — in non-district play.
“It’s challenging,” Mize said of setting up the short non-district slate. “I try to schedule teams that are prior playoff teams or, us being 5A, I’ll reach out to 6A schools and try to play some 6A schools just to try to get us to compete and learn.”