ALBANY -- Even Lady Knight player Morgan Phillips was surprised by Deerfield-Windsor's run to the GISA Class AAA Final Four in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.
"Coach (Ty) Kinslow thought we could make it that far," Phillips said of the first-year coach's early season goals. "Now, everybody is ready to go this year, thinking we can go that far again."
Hovering around .500 all of last season, Deerfield (14-14 in 2008) avoided a losing record only by reaching the state semifinals. Only two starters (Phillips and Lauren Fulford) return from that team, but Kinslow is still optimistic.
"You know, I think we were relatively young last year although we started three seniors," said Kinslow, who was a Southland boys assistant before taking over the Deerfield girls head coaching job last season. "A lot of these girls got experience last year."
When the previous coach, Larry Collins, resigned to take the headmaster's job at Tattnall Square, Kinslow incorporated some of Collins' game plan and tried to find a comfort level while coaching the Deerfield girls last season for the first time.
"I used a lot of coach Collins' stuff and put in some of my stuff and the girls had to get used to that," Kinslow said. "I really think that did help with their comfort level. They know what I expect."
Role player Lacey Kincheloe, a senior, said she feels that familiarity with Kinslow's coaching style should lead to a stronger regular season.
"We've worked more as a team together and now that we've gotten used to each other, we pass the ball around a lot more," said Kincheloe, who is the team's only senior. "After exceeding everybody's expectations last year, we're very confident we can get back to Milledgeville (site of the Final Four). If we work hard, we can do it again."
Phillips and Fulford are juniors, so they not only they are also learning what it takes to be leaders on the court; they are also learning the intangibles.
"That's what we're trying to do," Phillips said.
Kinslow, who said he is also comfortable with the team's depth, added he would not hesitate playing all 10 Lady Knights.
"We've got a lot of real athletes and that will help us on defense," Kinslow said. "If you put a lot of pressure on the other team defensively, you're going to have a chance to win every game."
Until then, Kinslow said he is willing to wait for the team chemistry to develop - as long as it is there come mid-February when the playoffs begin.
"It's about peaking at the right time," Kinslow said.