By GREG MENGELT
Matt Pait’s second summer as Jeffersonville’s girls’ basketball coach went nothing like his first — and that’s a good thing.
After taking over from Jana Costner just before the 2011-12 school year ended, Pait had trouble getting in his Red Devils into summer games and tournaments.
He had a hard enough time getting all of his varsity players together, let alone time for incoming freshmen and middle schoolers. He didn’t even have time to put together a summer camp.
“Last year, we were scrambling just to get into games while also getting to know the girls,” said Pait, who is a graduate of Jeffersonville and was on Chad Gilbert’s boys’ varsity staff the previous year.
This year, the Devils spent nearly the entire month of June together as a team. They played in tournaments at Seymour, Floyd Central, Mercy Academy in Louisville and at Ball State during a summer team camp. Pait even had time to put together camps for his middle schoolers and elementary school kids.
“This year was much more organized,” he said. “Overall, it was a really successful June.”
Pait and his team are finished with official games and practices for the offseason. With his players also competing in volleyball, softball and other sports, there isn’t much time left with school beginning Aug. 1.
However, Pait is confident that is was a productive summer for the Jeff girls.
“We had a really good summer overall,” he said. “We played a lot of games. We were pretty busy.”
Jeff played about 30 games, including contests against teams from Ohio, Illinois, Louisville and Northern Indiana, during the fast-paced month.
“We got to play a lot of different competition,” he said. “It’s nice to play different teams we don’t play during the year. It allows us to work on our own stuff and not rivalries.”
The Red Devils went 7-14 during Pait’s first season on the bench. While the late start got Jeff a bit behind, more than anything it hindered their team chemistry.
“That was our big thing,” Pait said of the summer. “Yes, we did a lot of work on the court, but we have so many girls in so many sports, so chemistry was a big emphasis of ours. We wanted just to get everybody together because they’ll all spread out in the fall. That’s a big reason we wanted to go to team camp [at Ball State].”
While Jeff lost seniors Taylor Davis, Taylor Hines and Nichole Midget, Pait likes what he has returning, including starters Haley Vogen and Aurreshae Hines and part-time starters Taylor Sykes and Makenzi Johnson.
“Every one of them has gotten better at something,” Pait said. “We’ve definitely grown as a team. I think we all made strides through the spring and through June when we were able to put a lot of work in.”
JEFFERSONVILLE’S 2013-14 OUTLOOK
• Coach: Matt Pait (7-14 heading into second season at Jeff and overall).
• RETURNING STARTERS: Haley Vogen (6-0, Sr., C), Aurreeshae Hines (5-3, Sr., G).
• OTHER KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Emily Gray (5-11, Jr., F), Taylor Sykes (5-3, So., G), Makenzi Johnson (5-8, Sr., G/F), Chelsea Lewis (5-2, Jr., G), Nycia Ford (5-7, Jr., F), Hailey Lacy (5-7, So., G/F).
• DEPARTURES: Nichole Midgett (5-2, G), Taylor Davis (5-6 G/F), Taylor Hines (5-3, G).
• 2012-13 SEASON RECAP: At first glance, a 7-14 record looks like a disappointing season. By Jeffersonville’s standards, it was, but the Red Devils were so close to having a much better record. They lost three games in overtime, one by a single point and two more in which they led in the fourth quarter.
• 2013-14 PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: It’s really hard to tell. Vogen’s return in the middle gives Jeff a chance to be much better and Gray could be the Devils’ breakout player. There’s a ton of team speed and some size. Jeff fans may not expect a repeat of Jeff’s 2011 state championship, but they certain believe the Devils could have their first winning season since that state title.