Sherman seeking a fresh start under new coach

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Sherman senior Jastic Eleby and the Lady Bearcats open the season on Tuesday night.

While almost all of the Lady Bearcats are returning to the court this season, there will be a much different feeling.

Under the direction of a new coach and hopefully able to shake free of the injury bug which has bitten key parts of the roster each of the previous two years, Sherman is embracing a fresh start.

With a young core bent on improving as well as some senior leadership ready to change how their last season will finish, the Lady Bearcats open this year with optimism as they host Little Elm at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

“I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve seen,” Sherman head coach Kara Skinner said. “I definitely think they’re going to be underestimated in a lot of ways.”

Skinner takes over from David Upton, who went 36-90 iverakk and 5-39 in district play in four years. This past season, the Lady Bearcats were 9-23 and 0-10 in the District 10-5A standings, which was a slight improvement over a 7-25 record the prior season. The program has not had a winning record while also missing the playoffs for the last six seasons. The Lady Bearcats have also lost 21 straight district games — and 29 of the past 30 — dating back to 2018.

“I think they’re hungry for a change. I think they’re hungry for some wins,” Skinner said. “We’re very young and I think that’s a good situation for me coming in and getting things going in the right direction. We’re going to figure it out together.”

Skinner has been tasked with providing that change, something she knows very well. Skinner comes from Port Neches-Groves, where she turned around that 5A program during her three years there.

After winning three games before her arrival, the Lady Indians went 8-17 in her first season but then made the playoffs the past two years — the first berths in program history — with bi-district losses. Port Neches-Grove was 23-13 and third in the District 21-5A standings before a 24-12 mark this past season and the Lady Indians were the district runner-up by winning a tie-breaker game against Dayton.

“It was a struggling program and we turned it around,” Skinner said. “I don’t think you can go into a situation and say, ‘this is how you’ve done it,' I definitely have some things in mind. There’s always some adjusting.”

Since Sherman lost only one senior — second-team all-district selection Ja’dyne Gatewood — a majority of the roster returns and has been tasked with learning about the direction Skinner wants to take the program.

“I’m definitely more defensive-minded. I like to turn my defense into offense,” she said. “I like our kids to be fundamentally sound. Our vision is for these kids to be very, very disciplined.”

Seniors Jastic Eleby and Abby Khader were honorable mention all-district selections. Another senior, Sa’Nyah Hunter, is entering her third year on the varsity while Ryan Dobbs and J’Brya Forman are the other seniors who could contribute after volleyball season is completed. Skinner also said that there will probably be several additions to the roster once volleyball ends next week.

There are also a couple of juniors who saw minutes last season in Ally Baker and Lily Ball.

“They have a chance to go compete every day for a spot,” Skinner said. “I’m not going to pick five and stick with it. It depends on who we’re playing and how they did in practice that week.”

The Lady Bearcats went into last year planning on playing, if not starting, three freshmen. A week into the season Destiny Briscoe, who was leading the team in scoring in the first couple of games, tore an ACL and missed the rest of the year.

“She’s back 100 percent pretty much. She’s a dynamic game-changer,” Skinner said. “She can make so much happen.”

Guards Jayla Jones and Andre’sha Luper were the other ninth-graders who made significant impacts despite some growing pains as through their first seasons.

Because teams cannot compete in tournaments as part of the UIL’s COVID-19 changes for this season, the Lady Bearcats will play non-district contests against Pottsboro, Gunter, Frisco Heritage, North Lamar, Melissa and Celina before starting 10-5A play on Dec. 15.

Sherman was placed in a district with Denison, Wylie East, McKinney North, Lovejoy, Princeton, The Colony and Prosper Rock Hill for the next two seasons.

“I had to do a lot of revamping to the schedule,” Skinner said. “But I think it will prepare us for when district play starts.”


What: Little Elm at Sherman

When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday