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An ongoing learning experience

As the first-year head coach of the Notre Dame Cougars senior girls basketball squad, Ian Rattan knows the 2012-13 season will be an ongoing learning experience.

Not only for himself, but also first-year assistant coach Gaelen Lavery and the majority of the team. And then there’s the system Rattan and Lavery plan to run.

“It’s going to be a work in progress just for the fact that myself and Gaelen are brand-new coaches with the program and we’re trying to put our own bit of a mark on the team with the type of offence we want to run,” said Rattan, whose team finished 0-3 in the four-team Cougar Classic senior girls tournament on Friday and Saturday.

“We want to run a high-tempo type of offence and learning that is always going to take a bit of time. It takes time to get our conditioning down and just make sure all the girls are as fit as they need to be to push the ball and press it as much as we want to.”

Rattan, a Red Deer native, is in his second year of teaching at Notre Dame. He previously taught at Medicine Hat McCoy, where he coached the JV girls to a playoff title and won a silver medal at the 3A provincials as an assistant with the senior girls team.

The Cougars are a relatively inexperienced team, with just five returnees in guards Danae Nielsen, Rebecca Burnand and Brooke Harty and posts Candice Morse and Emily Elkins.

The remainder of the club consists of Rachel Edge, Stacy Chomyn, Paige Watson, Mataya Dixon, Rachel Wiebe and promising Grade 10 guards Autumn Letkeman and Cierra Stevens.

“We picked Autumn and Cierra right away just because we thought they’d be able to compete right off the bat with the older girls, that they’d be able to push them right away,” said Rattan.

“A lot of our returning players didn’t play as much last year as they will this year, especially a girl like Brooke. She’s going to have to shoulder a lot of the load for us this year. We’ll rely on her and Autumn to handle the ball a lot for us and get it up the floor.”

The head coach likes the overall athleticism of his team.

“All the girls who came to tryouts were very good athletes and the girls we picked were the best athletes we had out,” said Rattan.

“We wanted to identify the best athletes who could push the ball and play at a high tempo, at a high pace.”

Although the Cougars are winless this season — including an overtime setback in their league-opener last week at Ponoka — Rattan isn’t aiming low in his expectations of the team.

“I’d be lying to say our goal wasn’t to win the zone title and advance to provincials (in March),” he said. “I think everybody goes into the season with a goal like that — to try and get to that last tournament of the year and put yourself in position to be in that last game of the season.”

While he’s high on the potential of the rookies, Rattan realizes that his returning players will have to lead the team.

“Brooke and Emily have to be leaders, for sure,” said the coach.

“Some of the girls here I coached last season with the senior girls rugby team as well, so there’s a familiarity with some of the athletes. That always helps just because those girls are familiar with my coaching style and who I am as an individual.”

Notre Dame opened the tournament with a 53-28 loss to the Lindsay Thurber Raiders, who got 10 points from Amy Whitesell.

The Lethbridge Catholic Cougars took top honours in the tournament with a 3-0 record that included respective 55-30, 83-15 and 70-31 victories over the Hunting Hills Lightning, Notre Dame and Lindsay Thurber.

Watson had six points in Notre Dame’s loss to Catholic Central.

In other games, Lindsay Thurber beat Hunting Hills 49-42 and finished 2-1, and Hunting Hills downed Notre Dame (the score and details were unavailable) to finish at 1-2.

The Cougars’ regular-season home-opener is Tuesday at 6 p.m. against the Lacombe Rams.



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