Get to know you period? Can’t tell the Copley Lady Indians that is a requirement to winning
under a new coach. Copley entered the season determined to build off last year’s success under former coach Mark Dente where they fell short in the Division 2 regional semifinals. Almost the entire team was returning, but with two major additions: Head Coach Julie Solis and Junior guard Izzy Callaway. Solis is a coach who has 21 years of experience, and has found success at every stop along the way, including 2 State Championships at Twinsburg (2011-2012).
Callaway returned home to Copley for her Junior Season where she attended middle school, and played with a lot of her current teammates. In addition to Archbishop Hoban having no hard feelings she left, she also credits the chemistry with her teammates as making the transition back to Copley smooth.
“It helped that I went here in middle school, and we hang out off the court.. There was also a new coaching staff so the philosophy was kind of new for everyone, not just me which definitely helped as well”.
To outsiders, the seamless change to a new coaching staff has seemed almost effortless. The team is in the midst of an 18-game winning streak, including a 64-62 overtime win over Solon. On the winning streak Callaway said
“Yeah we are feeling good, trying to get ready for the playoffs".
Solis credits the team for having even more success than she could have imagined through the tough part of their schedule.
“I am impressed with the quickness in which these girls bought into what we were selling them as a coaching staff. The first year can be tough”.
Solis also noted the girls are hard working and want to be at practice to get better which makes their job as coaches a lot easier.
Callaway is no stranger to putting in work on and off the court. She plays AAU basketball which she says helps her offensive game a lot. She also has an offseason regimen which includes lifting and shooting. Solis raved about Callaway calling her “the full package”.
“It’s not just her skills on the court, but her personality, basketball IQ, coachability, leadership, and she is a great teammate”.
Callaway is one of those players who makes her teammates better just by being on the court. Solis says they are working on Callaway being more aggressive coming off screens, but did credit Callaway with understanding herself.
“At her size she just understands her body and how to create space”.
There is no denying the basketball skills of Callaway, but according to Solis it is her “work ethic, personality, and coachability” which is why she knows she will shine.
“If you think the price of winning is high, wait until you get the bill for regret”.
It is one of Coach Solis’ favorite quotes, and one she is using to help fire her team up before the tournament rolls around. It is no secret Solis knows how to coach winning basketball, as she has only had 1 losing season in 22 years of coaching. Emotions play a big role in playoff basketball, and it is important to separate the mental side of the game from the physical.
“It is going to take hard work, being focused, and being taken out of your comfort zone.”
Solis added about what it takes to win that state title.
Luckily for Solis, she has some help when it comes to possessing that championship mentality. Many of the girls were also a part of the girls soccer team which is coming off a state championship of their own. Solis and Callaway both agreed they were rooting for their success every step of the way in route to the championship. I asked Coach Solis if that winning mentality can transfer over to the basketball team:
“I think it was very important. When you win a championship, you can kind of reflect on the hard work it took to get there to finally accomplish your main goal”.
Ashley Kerekes was one of state championship winning soccer players, and she has a personal story of adversity. Kerekes main sport is basketball where she unfortunately had to miss almost all of last season with a broken foot. Solis and Callaway have had a front row seat to her comeback, and could not have been any more exited watching her score her 1,000th career point in a win vs. Cuyahoga Falls. Callaway happens to be very close with Kerekes and added:
“She has put in so much work behind the scenes with physical therapy so it is really cool to witness all the success she is having”.
Coach Solis cited the confidence as a big reason for her solid play as of late.
Callaway and Kerekes are just two members of a team that have tremendous chemistry on and off the court. They are high character girls who are supportive one another, and celebrate each other’s successes. A credit to that has to go to Solis who was not just hired for her basketball success, but for the type of person she is. She makes sure to let her team know that it is great to have fun off the court, but that when they step inside the lines in the court it is business.
Solis says she takes on a bit of a Mama Bear role with her team in order to not just teach them the game of basketball, but also the life lessons that can be learned from the game. In her own words, she is a “tough love” type of coach.
“It is important to be honest and up front with them, show them that respect, and that you trust them. When you get on them you have to build them back up”.
Solis credits Callaway as being a person who learned how to deal with her coaching style very quickly.
“I get on Izzy, but she understands where I am coming from, and that I care about her. If you want kids to run through a wall for you they have to know you care about them”.
This is a Copley team that is learning how to win together on the fly. They are honest that there are still some details they need to work on before the tournament rapidly approaches. Callaway said:
“We just need to pay attention to the details. I think our team is physically very athletic, it is just being mentally strong to prepare for anything that can happen”.
Solis adds they will be spending a lot of time in the film room, and working on their defense.
When I asked them the main thing they wanted to work on before the tournament, they
laughed, and Callaway answered for her coach:
“Defense. We need to keep working on our defense”.
Copley will be a dangerous team in this tournament. If they focus on the philosophy of the program, Solis says the sky is the limit for this team.
“Effort, personality, hard work individually, togetherness”.
That is the mantra of a team who is coming together at the perfect time.
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