Mariner’s new coach, new players bring energy | Girls basketball

Marauders’ lineup undergoes overhaul
By David Pan | Nov 28, 2018
Photo by: David R Pan Mariner senior center Yuni Septimo-Ruiz attempts a shot during an offensive drill at Mariner High School.

Mariner is embracing change.

Coming off a successful season that included the school’s first victories at the district tournament in at least 20 years, the Marauders have a different look from top to bottom.

Junior varsity coach Jamie Gepner was promoted to head coach, replacing former coach Corey Gibb, who left to take over at Wesco 4A rival Jackson after leading the Marauders for 11 years. Gepner previously was the C-team coach.

Gepner noted that her familiarity with the players has helped with the transition.

“I’m glad I was with these girls before, so it’s not getting to know them completely from the very beginning,” she said.

Mariner’s starting lineup also has undergone significant changes with the graduation of longtime starters Hannah Hezekiah and Denisa Grebovic and the transfer of Taliyah Clark.

Though they may be lacking in returning varsity experience, the Marauders are making up for it in other ways.

“The girls are high energy and they’ve been that way since the very beginning,” Gepner said. “They’re excited. They’ve shown up with enthusiasm. The younger girls are wanting to pick up things and the older girls are stepping up as leaders.”

Senior Yuni Septimo-Ruiz, a 5-foot-11 center, saw significant time on the court last season and is looking forward to taking the court with some new teammates.

“I think a lot of people are watching us just to see how our team reacts,” Septimo-Ruiz said. “It’s like a new team.”

Instead of relying on a couple of players, the Marauders are going to need every player on the court to up their game.

“It’s focused more on the team and how we play as a team,” Septimo-Ruiz said.

The players make it a point of emphasis to be supportive of one another at practice.

“We know how to encourage each other and we speak to each other in a way where we just uplift each other,” Septimo-Ruiz said.

Unlike previous years, the Marauders will have decent height with Septimo-Ruiz, senior center Melissa Pere (5-9), junior center Tina Duangmani (5-9) and senior guard Rachael Hendrickson (5-9).

“I’m actually really hoping that we can take advantage of that as oftentimes our program hasn’t had very much height,” Gepner said.

The team received a major boost with the return of Hendrickson, who took a year off from basketball. The volleyball and softball standout told Gepner last summer that she was interested in playing basketball again.

“It was definitely a pleasant surprise to have her come back,” Gepner said. “She’s shown a lot of leadership. She kind of stepped right in like she didn’t miss a beat.”

Hendrickson likes the way the team is embracing the challenge of replacing last year’s starters.

“We can make up for it if we work hard,” Hendrickson said. “I don’t see it as a bad thing. It just means you have to work harder. … I’m really hoping that we can surprise some teams.”

Pere agrees that the team’s expectations for the season remain high.

“We were on top last year because we had the three big players (Hezekiah, Grebovic and Clark),” she said. “But this year I feel if we put our hard work into it, put our all, we could do as much damage.”

With so many new starting positions to fill, Gepner was still evaluating talent and tinkering with the lineup.

“Right now we’re still kind of getting the feel for who’s going to play what roles and all that kind of stuff,” Gepner said. “We’re kind of an open book right now. The girls are filling some big shoes, but they’re willing to step into them.”

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