Story by Daniel Woods

MARTINSBURG, W.Va –There’s a stronger sense of comfort within the Martinsburg girls basketball program this season as the Bulldogs enter the second season of Ronnie Fitzpatrick’s tenure as head coach.

While adjusting to new leadership may have precipitated a slow start a year ago, Fitzpatrick believes his team lived up to its potential by the time the postseason rolled around.

“We finished the way that we should have started,” he said, “I think that the year, as we began it, we were still learning each other. My staff which I’m very lucky to have, Dave McKenzie and Coach Adams, we were learning the girls and what worked best for them.”

With the relationship between the staff and the players established, the goals of a Fitzpatrick-run program are being established. That includes attacking every day at the highest level you can achieve.

“One of the things that we talked about last year was winning every day in practice and that hasn’t changed. Consistently working hard, consistently doing what we need to do on a day in and day out basis and the girls have done that,” he said.

On the court, it all begins when the other team has the ball. Fitzpatrick wants to bring a defense-oriented style to the EPAC this season.

“We want to be a team that starts with our defense. We’ve got good size. We’ve got good length and we’ve got good speed at the guard positions,” he said, “We look to defend full court. We look to change this up on you a little bit and try to confuse you and just be a well-rounded defensive team.”

Fitzpatrick will be counting on a handful of returners to establish that identity. Kayla Nelson and Tianna Sanabria are a pair of sophomores that will be expected to play major roles in the backcourt while senior Kaydance Bradley brings a dominant force on the glass and in the paint.

In an always competitive conference, Fitzpatrick is looking for his team to take a step toward the top of the EPAC this season with control of the league up for grabs.

“Washington is returning everybody and ended our season last year so they’re going to be a tough team to hang with. When you peel back from that, it’s going to be up in the air,” he said.

Martinsburg opens the season tonight on the road at Allegany (MD) and makes its home debut on Wednesday night against Petersburg. Play-by-play coverage of the Bulldogs and the Vikings can be heard on the Panhandle News Network.