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Effingham's Skyler Schafer (4) and Natalie Carie (12) defend a shot against Charleston last year. 

KEVIN KILHOFFER, Herald & Review News Services

EFFINGHAM — Determining a starting roster should be one of the easier jobs for a coach. 

You might have a battle for that fifth spot, but picking the top five players on a team should be no problem. 

Tell that to Effingham girls basketball coach Jeff Schafer, whose deep roster is proving hard to narrow down.

"Our top eight players, they have all started in the past two or three years and could start for any team," Schafer said. "It’s a nice thing for a coach to have when you have this sort of versatility."

Miranda Fox, junior point guard and floor general for the Hearts, can't wait for other teams to get a look at the Hearts.

"Other teams will not know who to guard," she said. "Our top eight are so strong. When we sub in, there will be no difference in ability."

Abby Weis, who attended Effingham St. Anthony the past two seasons and was their leading scorer last season, transferred back to Effingham this year and strengthened an already impressive roster. 

"Everybody can play," Weis said. "Anyone can perform at any time and everyone brings their own thing to the table."

Last year's Hearts finished 26-5, 8-2 in the Apollo Conference, good for second place, and advanced to the sectional semifinals before losing to conference rival Mattoon.

That team was led by guard Carsyn Fearday and her 15.4 points per game. It's Fearday's work ethic that inspires this year's team. 

"Carsyn never takes a day off," Fox said. "She's always working on her shot."

Weis said Fearday is relentless. 

"She's the type of person, even if we are winning by a lot, if we give up a bucket, she is going to be frustrated with us," Weis said. "She'll tell us 'We can do better than that.'"

Although only a junior, Fox has developed into the engine of the offense and a player/coach on the court. 

"Miranda, she brings a lot of energy every day and she's a great leader as the point," Fearday said. "I would describe her as another coach."

"She is definitely the most energetic person we’ve got," Weis said. 

Fox knows her role and loves making her teammates better.  

"I want to be the leader on the court and I’m always talking," she said. "I’m yelling at them, picking them up, building them up. I like to get the team going and get the game going, keep the game moving."

Along with Fearday, Fox and Weis, the Hearts have senior Aly Armstrong whose specialty is three-pointers. She led the team by connecting on 62 of them last season. 

Center Shelby Myers (8 points, 5 rebounds per game last year) — a Drury University commit — patrols the middle. Senior Bria Barr and juniors Natalie Carie and Skyler Schafer also add depth and versatility.  

The Hearts are zeroing in on Charleston and new Apollo member Lincoln as their main competition. 

"I would say Lincoln will be tough. We played them in the regionals last year and it was a really close game," Fearday said. "They will also have all their juniors back this year."

Schafer said the Apollo is never easy.

"We have had some rough battles with Charleston in the past and it will probably be between us and them," Schafer said. "Apollo play is so hard every year, any team can beat you on any night if you don’t play well."

For this year's squad, a focus has been on building a strong team chemistry, especially with Weis added to the mix. 

"We keep working on that chemistry and sometimes adding a new player can change that," Schafer said. "But Abby has fit right in and strengthened the team dynamic." 

Weis was a little unsure of how she would fit in with the team after being away for two seasons. 

"I’ve been asked that a lot with me coming back and I didn't know what it would be like at first," she said. "For me, it is like I haven’t been gone. It took a few days to settle in but after that it has been so nice."

Fox said the Weis coming back hasn't changed the team dynamic.

"Our team chemistry is tremendous, if your team doesn’t have team chemistry it's not going to work out," Fox said. "There is no other way to put it, we have no drama on this team. It has been smooth sailing."

A key part of that chemistry seems to be that the Hearts have found that combination of talented, unselfish players who don't really care who leads the stat sheet. 

"I think most people are surprised to hear that we don't care who scores," Weis said. "All this team wants is to win with each other." | (217) 421-6968


Sports Writer

Sports writer for the Herald & Review.

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