For half of the Rock Falls girls basketball players, fall sports season ended Saturday. But there was no surprise around the program when the Rockets had their full complement of girls practicing Monday afternoon.
In what has become a tradition in Rock Falls girls athletics, there was an immediate turnover at Tabor Gym this week when seven of the 14 Rockets took just 1 day off – Sunday – before shifting gears to hoops.
"I'm not good with time off," said senior Morgan Mammosser, one of five players whose dreams of a trip to the volleyball state tournament were dashed just 2 days before her first basketball practice. "I don't feel like I'm in the flow as much if I don't go right into the next sport. I think all of us volleyball players – and both cross country runners – knew we were going right into basketball."
"I knew we had five games next week, so I didn't take time off," chimed in cross country runner Aubree Johnson, who ran with her fellow Rockets to a fourth-place finish at the state meet Saturday in Peoria. "I wanted to know what was going on and get a few practices in before the games started."
That attitude is nothing new for the Rockets, whose competitiveness is so strong that they'll play through pain and overcome any obstacle placed in their path – even if it's within themselves.
"I've done it for 4 years now, so it doesn't bother me at all," senior Jordan Giddings said of the quick changeover. "I'm so used to playing something that it would be weird to not start basketball right away, and I want to get out and compete.
"The tough thing, though, is that I'm not in running shape at all, so I'm dying right now … but it's all worth it if we have a good season."
Last week, longtime coach Craig Mammosser had seven girls in practice, making it a bit difficult to scrimmage. Monday, that number doubled, and Mammosser was able to start getting everybody on the same page.
Not that it takes these girls too long to get in sync.
"We're so used to each other, and we have such good chemistry already," senior Jordan Giddings said. "Five of us bonded on the volleyball team, and Aubree and Jessica [Wind] bonded in cross country, so we just have to take those bonds and put everybody together. Plus, we see each other at school all the time; it's not like we all avoid each other during the fall."
While experience does help make the transition easier, things were a bit different this year. The Rockets are installing a new offense, adding a little pressure to the quick turnaround.
But with so many multi-sport veterans, it's no surprise the Rockets have adjusted quickly.
"We're further along than where I thought we'd be after just 4 days of practice with the full team," coach Mammosser said. "Last week was tough, but the girls who were here were able to get extra reps in and get ahead of the game with our new zone and man offenses. I think that's going to help with our depth a lot as the year goes on."
A deeper bench will come in handy as the Rockets try to overcome heavy losses from last year's 21-11 team. Four of the top six scorers from that squad, which lost a final-shot heartbreaker in the sectional final on its home floor last February, are gone, and Rock Falls also lost three of the top four in assists and two of the top three in steals.
But 4-year starters Morgan Mammosser (8.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.8 spg in 2011-12) and Giddings (8.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.3 apg) lead a group that coach Mammosser says is running the floor and picking up the new concepts very well, even if they're not as athletic this year given the losses of Cheyenne Burnett and Lauren Haas (graduation), Katie Olson (transferred) and Addesyn Nailor (didn't go out).
That quartet averaged more than half of Rock Falls' points (60.8 percent) and steals (55.1 percent), and nearly half of its rebounds (47.2 percent) and assists (49.5 percent).
"We have some new girls who are going to play key roles this year," said sophomore Bailey Schrader, in her second varsity season, "but we're learning how to work together really well. We have a lot of talent, and it's easier to get into basketball because we had such a good volleyball and cross country season."
"We definitely want to keep this success going," Johnson added, "and that does make us more confident that we can come together and get the job done."
Rock Falls Rockets
Coach: Craig Mammosser (16th year, 232-198)
2011-12: 21-11 (8-4 Big Northern, 3rd place)
Advancement: Lost in 2A Rock Falls Sectional semifinal 46-44 to Stillman Valley
Key losses: Cheyenne Burnett, G; Lauren Haas, F; Addesyn Nailor, G; Katie Olson, G
Key returners: Jordan Giddings, sr. F; Morgan Mammoser, sr. G; Bailey Leseman, jr. G; Bailey Schrader, so. F
Opener: at Sherrard, 7:30 p.m. Monday