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West Orange Times & Observer Friday, Nov. 20, 2015 3 years ago

Senior-less Ocoee girls hoops ready for big season

Confident, junior-heavy squad hopes to insert the Knights as among Central Florida's elite girls basketball programs.
by: Steven Ryzewski Senior Sports Editor

OCOEE  If you look at the roster for the Ocoee High girls basketball team this winter, there’s something you might notice missing from it — seniors.

The Knights don’t have any.

However, a situation that normally would have a program talking about building toward “next year” doesn’t seem to faze this bunch. Seniors or not, this edition of the Ocoee Knights is a confident group that feels like it is among the best programs in Central Florida — and beyond.

“We’re trying to make it to state,” said junior Dynasty Carter, a transfer from West Orange. “We’ve got a big target on our back because we’ve got a couple transfers, but we plan on showing Orlando that we’re a force to be reckoned with.”

The team’s coach, Gina Solano, does not shy away from the expectations, either. 

Solano said her program expects to first win Class 7A, District 5 and then contend for a state title in 7A. 

“The offense takes time, not only for the players getting use to each other on the court but also for them learning new plays,” Solano said. “I have mainly focused on our defense. We have great offensive players, but our defense is the key — creating easy fast break offense.”

Part of the challenge has been getting a team with transfers and a freshman to gel. Beyond Carter, the other two transfer additions include Madison Perez and Shaia Blair, along with freshman Zamaiya Robinson.

After scoring a convincing victory over West Orange to open the season, Ocoee fell to Olympia Nov. 12, 47-23.

Still, Carter touts the family feeling she has experienced at Ocoee, and Solano said she has observed a good vibe among the girls. Furthermore, the juniors have emerged as leaders.

“These girls are always together at school and after school — we definitely have a lot of fun together,” Solano said. “All my juniors have stepped up this year starting in the preseason.”

Despite an influx of new faces, there is some base familiarity. A few of the players, including Di’Mon Steele and Dynasty Carter, were teammates for a championship team at Ocoee Middle School.

And what would it mean to the Knights to leave last year’s 7-15 mark in the dust? 

It is a thought that excites the team’s veterans.

“It would mean a lot,” Steele said. “A lot of people look down on this school, on the program, so we’re showing them that we can actually do this. Don’t count Ocoee out.”

Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].

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