By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Entering her fourth season at the helm, Oxford Wildcats girls’ basketball head coach Rachel Bryer has enjoyed seeing steady improvement from her program throughout her first three years.
After winning eight games in her first season in 2016-17, the Wildcats reached the 15-win plateau each of the last two years. With an eye on meeting that number again in 2019-20, Bryer will rely on a young – but talented – roster. Of the 13 girls on the team, just three are seniors.
“It’s difficult right now,” Bryer said of her team’s preparation for the upcoming season. “We only have five returning players, and of those five, only four played real quality minutes last year. Right now, we’re in the process of learning the team, learning the system. It has been a bit of a mystery as to how we’re going to look when we step out thus far. For us, it always seems those first couple of scrimmages and first couple of games are very eye-opening and give us a much better idea of where we’re at.”
In situations where a team has a large amount of turnover, it’s helpful for the coach if she has a strong senior class to lean on. While Bryer’s class is small, her girls have shown the type of leadership qualities that give her confidence moving forward.
“My seniors are going play a large role in us figuring out who we are as a team and what our goals are,” Bryer said. “The girls take it upon themselves to strive for success and set goals for themselves, and that’s what we strive for as a coaching staff. (Guard) Gabby Dinges, (forward) Aleah Dymond and (guard) Sarah Tyrrell are our three seniors this year. They’ve all worked hard. Gabby is a two-sport athlete, Aleah and Sarah are both three-sport athletes.
“All three girls keep themselves busy, but also show a commitment to basketball. They’re true leaders for us.”
In addition to starring on the school’s softball team with Tyrrell, Dinges is an assistant girls’ basketball coach at the middle school level with her mother, Nina.
Consisting of seven players, Bryer likes the foundation of her junior class, as well.
“Mackenzie Methner is one of our better athletes. She has a strong drive, great competitor. She’s our point guard and because of her mind for the game, she can compete with the best of the best.”
Methner’s older sister, Lauren – a senior – represented the Lady Wildcats’ cross country program at the Michigan High School Athletic Association State Meet at Michigan International Speedway on Nov. 2. Joining Methner, classmates Makenzie Brown and Payton Szymanski will be counted on to help replace HaLaya Cato and Ashley Hershman, two All-North Honorable Mention players for Bryer a year ago.
“We have quite the assortment of new faces, but our junior class is strong. They’ll be exciting and will have to step up right away for us.”
One thing that will be familiar for Bryer’s team, however, is their presence in the Oakland Activities Association’s White division.
“This will be our fourth year in a row in the White,” Bryer said. “We compete really well with the OAA White teams. Two years ago (2017-18), we came in third. Last year, we lost two league games to Avondale and one to West Bloomfield, and again came in third-place.”
Featuring traditional rivals Lake Orion and Rochester Adams, the 2019-20 OAA White race will be another fun one to watch unfold.
“We’ve been able to get after it throughout the years, we’ve beat some OAA Red teams,” Bryer said. “I think the league does a good job with that; you really get some good competition between both of those levels.”
A former student-athlete herself, Bryer played for the Oakland Golden Grizzlies from 2004-08. Now a teacher at Oxford Middle School in addition to her coaching duties, she has assembled a staff with some local ties to help the girls reach their full potential.
Skye Donaldson, a 2015 Oxford graduate, is beginning her second season as an assistant for Bryer. Continuing her playing career at Rochester College, the two first met when Bryer was an assistant under previous head coach Steve Emert and Donaldson was a junior in 2013-14.
Allison Karpinski, a new teacher in the district, will round out Bryer’s staff. A graduate of Royal Oak High School, Karpinski played collegiately for the Alma Scots.
Beginning their season on the road, the Lady Wildcats face the Bloomfield Hills Black Hawks on next Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. The team’s home-opener will take place on Dec. 6 vs. the Walled Lake Central Vikings.