TOLEDO – As the season closed for the Lady Vandals with a heartbreaking loss in last week’s regional tournament, it was a bittersweet moment for coach Michelle McNary.
On one hand, she was losing a group of four talented seniors, who were freshmen when she began coaching.
But on the other, she has a host of talented underclassmen who are expected to contribute heavily in the next several seasons.
Vandalia finished the season at 11-18, and were just one point away from defeating Teutopolis in the regional semifinals, a 44-43 loss.
After the game, McNary fought emotion as she spoke about the senior class of Amber Bruno, Morgan Whightsil, Haley Cothern and Abby Dugan.
“I wanted this (win) for them more than anything,” McNary said. “Those are four girls who we are going to miss, but I know that they have bigger and better things in their futures.”
All four of them were huge contributors to the team’s regional tournament success.
Bruno scored a career-high 36 points in the quarterfinals – a 62-47 win against Cumberland – and added a team-high 17 against T-Town.
She had nearly 575 points on the season, and averaged nearly 20 per game.
Whightsil was one of the team’s leading rebounders, and added in points in almost every game of the season.
Against T-Town, she made a key layup on the first possession of the second half that gave the Lady Vandals a 10-point lead.
Cothern was one of the first players off of the bench this season, and started the last eight games after an injury to junior Megan Godoyo.
She made a big 3-pointer in the second quarter against the Lady Shoes that capped a 15-2 run for the Lady Vandals.
Dugan was a reserve post player who grabbed her share of rebounds during the season.
Against Teutopolis, she had two assists, the first to Kaitlyn Kershaw on a three-point play in the second quarter, and the second to Whightsil on her basket – both key turning points for Vandalia’s momentum.
Also key cogs to the regional tournament were freshmen Karlie Bright, Madelyn Hosick and Makayla Tinker.
That trio played a lot of minutes this season, and that workload will only increase as the seasons roll by.
They each played in all 29 games this season, and had at least 60 points.
“They are used to winning (from junior high), and know how to win big games,” McNary said. “They don’t seem to get rattled a whole lot, and they will be a nice addition for us next year.”
Other leading returners for next season are Morgan Cripe, Kaitlyn Kershaw, Megan Godoyo and Brandy Protz, who will all be seniors, though Godoyo and Protz have been hobbled by injuries each of the past two seasons.