Woodburn — The first year of the Taylor Belmont era in Woodburn featured progress in the win column, as the Lady Bulldogs doubled their win total from the previous two seasons combined, finishing with a 4-19 record. While that record may not look good, its the start of a hopeful trend upward for Coach Belmont and the Lady Bulldogs, a trend that begins with Coach Belmont herself. After their Blue and White Night featuring a Taco Tuesday fundraiser, Coach Belmont talked about her program, her first year as a high school head coach, and the entire system she is building in Woodburn.
Coach Belmont’s first year as Woodburn Head Coach featured a 4-19 record, as Woodburn searches for their first winning season since 2003 and a sign of consistent improvement within the program. Coach Belmont returns five seniors, two juniors, and a pair of sophomores, while losing five seniors from last season. Coach Belmont discussed her first year as head coach and the things she took away from it…
Coach Belmont: “Going into last season I had the thought that if we worked hard that it would translate into wins, and what I saw was a group of girls that gave 100% each day and it only translated into a few wins. What I’m learning as a basketball coach is that its about the program and the long term. Already this year in our first week of practice I’m seeing them do things that took us two months into last season to do, but we have returners that know they have the fundamentals, they know the system, and I know that the kids are going to give it their all but it takes a system and some building to make those things happen.”
Transitioning from Year 1 to Year 2 gives a coach the opportunity to observe team growth, something that Coach Belmont has taken notice of from offseason and summer seasons.
Coach Belmont: “Our confidence has increased so much! This summer was really good for us because we got a bunch of games in, we played in like four or five tournaments, and the girls are playing 20 games in three or four weekends and I saw them really come together as a team. They started putting the ball in the basket more, in the season we were scoring 25 points a game and in the summer we were getting 40, 50, 60 points in games. They’re learning what its like to put the ball in the basket and its really exciting.”
Coach Belmont on execution: “Last season, it was really hard for us to execute our offense and handle ball pressure. I think along with the confidence just came the ability to breathe, setup our offense, make good choices under pressure, and I just saw the girls maturing as they got more experience.”
Every team has go to players, the athletes that the coach tells to make a play in the huddle during key situations. Just like many teams, Woodburn has more than just one or two that fit that description and Coach Belmont gave insight on who those players are for her Lady Bulldogs.
Coach Belmont: “I think we have many girls that can contribute with different roles. Aria Kent is going to be able to break the press and bring the ball up the court, and she has really worked on her three in the offseason so she is going to be able to give us some points. Taya Kent just attacks the basket so hard that she puts points on the board just because its so hard to stop her energy and intensity. Willow Neshem’s shot has improved so much and I think it’ll be a huge year for her, along with Lina Cabrera as a senior wing. Just a lot of people and I’m excited to see what they do.”
Finally, every successful high school program has some level of youth development, and Woodburn is no exception to that rule. The Lady Bulldogs have had success among their 6th, 7th, and 8th grade teams, with the squads competing among the elite programs in the state of Oregon and fighting for state tournament championships. Coach Belmont talked about the state of her youth development and what she is doing to promote it under her leadership.
Coach Belmont: “We have a couple of different fundamentals that we’re trying to teach throughout the entire program. With footwork we’ve been having lefties pivot with the right foot and righties pivot with the left foot, with the goal of cutting down on those travels. We’ve been teaching the same form shooting all the way through, and its really cool because now the freshmen are coming to us with some of the fundamentals that they didn’t have three or four years ago.”
Woodburn opens the second season of the Taylor Belmont era on December 4th against the Tillamook Cheeseheads at home.