by Jakob Cole

Coming off of a season in which they broke their winless streak, the J.E.B. Stuart girls’ varsity basketball team is primed for a breakout season. After three consecutive winless seasons, the Lady Raiders impressed last year by winning two games. Stuart will try to build from last year’s success and climb the ranks in Conference 13.

Most of the team remains intact from last season, as there are nine returning players from last year’s varsity team, to go along with losing only two players. Among the returning players are sophomores Leah Hudson and Mariana Hershner, juniors Isabel Bruns, Brianna Ford, and Hannah Hudson, and seniors Raschell Guilliams, Laura Hegemann, Nicole Dorton and Leilani Young-Smith. These players will help bring continuity from last year to this year and help mentor the younger players. “I like how the team is tight knit and how much team bonding we have,” said junior Rachel Mangum.

Previously, the tradition of girls’ basketball at Stuart has not been the greatest. From 2010-2013, the Lady Raiders suffered 84 consecutive losses, the most in Stuart history. The Raiders finally ended that streak last year at home, with a 28-15 victory vs. Lee. Stuart immediately followed that victory with a 47-44 win vs. Northwestern. After three straight years of losing, Stuart has just had itself a two game win streak, its first in six years. The Lady Raiders finished the season 2-20, providing hope of future success.

The Lady Raiders’ season started December 5, during the Raider Tip-Off Tourney. After an opening loss to West Potomac 50-26, Stuart rebounded with a hard-fought performance in their next contest. The Raiders played a spectacular game through three quarters, leading Lee 22-15 going into the fourth quarter. However, a late run by Lee ended up as the decisive one in a 39-30 loss. The final score should not show how well the Raiders played, so close to their first victory of the year just two games into the season.

Their next test came against Northwestern, a team they had defeated the previous season. In a scoring outburst, the Raiders showed no mercy on their inferior opponent. Stuart scored early and often in a 70-36 blowout. Performances like these show the potential of this team and how far they can go.

While you may not see the Lady Raiders as the Conference champions this season, things are looking bright for the girls’ basketball program. Growing continuity to go along with a mix of young talent will help transform this team into a formidable squad this year.

Photo by Jakob Cole