Chris Tucker/Peninsula Daily News

SPORTS: New era starts for Peninsula College women’s basketball

PORT ANGELES — Change is a part of life in community college athletics.

Yet the amount of turnover experienced by the Peninsula College women’s basketball program this year borders on excessive.

First, Peninsula welcomed its fifth head coach in five years when last season’s assistant coach, Alison Crumb, took the job this summer.

Then, with all but one player gone from last year’s 19-11 squad — the first to reach the playoffs since Crumb played for the Pirates in 2005 — it welcomed an entirely new team as well.

If ever there was a basketball team that had to “learn on the run,” it’s this year’s Peninsula women.

“It’s good and it’s bad, as far as being a first-year coach,” said the 24-year-old Crumb, likely the youngest coach in the NWAACC.

“Everything is new and exciting, at least right now. Nothing is boring.”

It would be hard not to be.

Crumb was thrust into the role of head coach months after last season ended, something she even admitted was “unexpected.”

That meant she had to go on the recruiting trail — a first for her — and find players she hadn’t even seen play.

Then once practice began this fall, she had to find a way to design practices for a roster of just 10 players, including nine freshmen, who, much like their coach, must also find themselves at the college level.

“Its a big difference from last year,” said sophomore Dena Houser, the lone holdover from the 2008-09 squad.

“Not only do we not have the experience and the proper leadership, as we did last year having 10 sophomores, it’s also a lot that people have to adjust to.

“Last year, it wasn’t just the experience, we had more positions filled.

“We had our point guards, we had our wings, we had our posts. So we had enough people that they could do their specific jobs on the court.

“This year, since we’re low on numbers, we have girls playing out of position. Everybody is jumbled around, so it’s hard to get everybody’s strengths to actually contribute to the court.”

It won’t be for a lack of trying.

With so few players, Crumb has no choice but to have her players participate in drills the entire practice.

There just aren’t many drills one can run for 2-on-2 or 3-on-3.

With so little experience, she also must depend on several freshmen to take on big roles. Everyone must be thrown into the fire.

Given the difficult schedule the Pirates have played so far, the team’s 1-5 record going into today’s tournament game seems just about right.

“Not one of those players has ever played with each other before,” Crumb said.

“So as far as developing a team style defense and executing offenses . . . it’s difficult. They are still adjusting to each other and still adjusting to moving here and being here.

“We’ve spent a lot more time on skills and developing what we can do as a team. We’re still in the weight room three days a week and conditioning as much as we can in practice, but right now I think the focus is coming together as a team and finding our identity.”

So far, Houser has handled the role of team leader well.

Not only does she go all out in practice, she also plays a key role in games as the team’s leading scorer (12.2 points per game) and playmaker (2.5 assists).

Freshman point guard Jimesha Collins has shown flashes as well, averaging 11.3 points and 1.43 assists per game.

Freshman forward Emily Garner was originally a softball recruit but has been solid with averages of 7.4 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.

If former Port Angeles High School standout Danika Goodwin can get eligible after transferring from Pacific Lutheran University, the Pirates will have an active roster of 10 players by the time division play begins in January.

Crumb just hopes she can get them all on the same page by then.

“We’re striving to get into the tournament,” Crumb said. “Realistically, are we competing for the championship? Probably not.

“But to get that third or fourth slot [in the North Division] right now is our goal.”

Could that then be the start of something big? Perhaps even an Alison Crumb era?

“With Community Colleges there is a high turnaround,” Crumb said. “It’s crazy when you think of some of the schools that have had the same coach for 30 years. That doesn’t happen very often.

“If I can and it works out that way, then it’s great. If I can’t, we’re still going to be something and get players in here that are going to play and compete.

“I’d love to be a huge part of it for as long as I can, but we’ll see what happens down the road.

“I’m still pretty young.”

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