If anyone ever questioned the passion first-year head coach Ashley Imperiale brings to her job, all you have to do is listen to her philosophy.
Imperiale is the new coach for the Wauwatosa West girls basketball program after being an assistant last year. And it appears she is bringing the same passion to her job as a coach as she did when she was a star player at Greendale and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
"I'm very excited about our foundation as we've had 30-plus girls at every open gym the past two weeks," she said. "Which we now call 'boot camp' instead of open gym."
Imperiale will stress a Three Musketeers philosophy and she wants to make sure her team grows off the court as well as on it.
"Our program motto for this season is 'One.' Everything we do revolves around the No. 1," she said. "We are one team, one coaching staff, one program with one pulse.
"We win together, fight together, lose together. Our goal is to focus on one practice at a time, one game at a time, one play at a time because the only thing that is important is what is happening at that moment."
Imperiale said her job goes beyond the basketball court.
"I told the girls straight up that my job is to teach them not just how to be great basketball players, but how to be great people," she said. "How to problem solve, persevere and take on and accomplish challenges they never thought they could.
"When they enter the gym, whatever they just did before they entered needs to be dropped off at the door because no one cares what they did in yesterday's game, last season or in middle school. What matters is what did they give to our team today? How did they make us a better team and were they a star at their role?"
The Trojans are coming off a 9-8 season as they were third in what was then the Woodland Conference West Division and 13-12 overall.
They return three key players, including seniors Latasha Harmon and Jessica Pike and junior Elise Ditscheit.
Harmon averaged 10.4 points and 5.0 rebounds, was captain and a second-team all-conference choice. Pike, like Harmon, a 5-foot-9 inch inside player and a captain, averaged 5.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. Ditscheit is a 5-9 lightning quick guard, who averaged 5.4 points and 3.0 steals per game.
Team speed and defense should once again be the Trojans' strength.
Although practice just started, Imperiale said there are some newcomers who can play a key role.
They are sophomore Abbey Jones, a 5-10 forward, senior Megan Wendelberger, a 5-9 point guard who was injured last year, and junior Ashley Lindstrom, a 5-9 guard.
"Abbey was a reserve as a freshman, but worked hard all season and over the summer and will play a crucial role," Imperiale said. "Megan's experience, ball handling and leadership will be a huge asset.
"Ashley played limited time last year, but showed the ability to rebound and score during big games."
The Trojans showed signs of growth last season. They ended the season with a regional championship and a winning record for the first time since 2009-10 when they were 17-7.
Imperiale sees Pius XI, New Berlin Eisenhower and New Berlin West being the teams to beat in the new Woodland West Division.
"With how challenging and competitive the Woodland West is, I truly believe our mental toughness is going to be a huge factor in being competitive in games," she said. "As for the physical piece, our team speed is phenomenal, but we need consistent scoring from two to three girls. Along with that, we need to take care of the ball when we have it and limit our opponents to one shot.
"Our defense will be our backbone and if we can learn to take care of the ball and get easy baskets off our defense, I believe we'll surprise some teams."
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