COLUMBIA — Thirty minutes before practice, the scene in the hallway of Father Tolton Catholic High School's gym is chaotic.
Players are running in and out of the weight room and training room. Tolton’s girls basketball coach Doug Sain grins as he strolls down the hallway. One of the players pops out in front of him to show off her multicolored shorts.
“I hope you didn’t bring your camera because those shorts are absolutely hideous,” Sain said.
All the players laugh as they head off to get ready for practice. Sain’s smile never leaves his face through the entire practice.
“This is a great group of girls,” Sain said. “We have a lot of camaraderie on this team. This is a new school. It’s a small school, and they all know each other so well.”
Tolton is entering its second year in existence. The girls basketball team played on the junior varsity level last year. The Trailblazers will make the jump to varsity this season. Sain laughs at the idea that his girls might be scared to play against varsity opponents.
“Oh yeah, there is a lot of fear on this team,” Sain said jokingly. “But in all seriousness, we played a lot of games over the summer against some good teams. We will be ready to roll.”
Sain also mentions that it helped that 10 of the players on his team were on the school’s volleyball team that also made the jump to varsity this year.
The varsity team includes one junior, nine sophomores and two freshmen. Lacey Stephen, the lone junior on the varsity, said the team’s youth shouldn’t be a disadvantage.
“I feel that the sophomores are very mature,” Stephen said. “But at the end of the day, I feel it is on me to bring the team up whenever we aren’t making shots.”
Sain is quick to mention that Stephen has done an excellent job as a leader on the team. He has also nicknamed her “The Preacher” for her natural speaking ability and how everyone stops and listens when she is talking.
The Trailblazers are eager to see starting point guard Andrea Wikle return to full strength after she tore her ACL in late May.
“At first I thought I was going to be out the entire season,” Wikle said. “But now I might be ready after Thanksgiving. I’m just really excited to get back out on the court.”
Wikle, who is 5-foot-5, admits that as well as being young the Trailblazers are undersized. But she said she is excited about the opportunity to grow and develop with her teammates.
“I think you can look at it in a way that sure we are younger, but we will be able to play together for a couple years,” Wikle said. “By my senior year, I think we will be a lot better.”
For now, Wikle can only cheer her teammates on in practice, something she has no trouble doing.
“We are trying to find a balance between having fun and being intense,” Winke said. “We are all good friends. It is like we are one big family.”