Love helps lead Vikings to historical season

Published 3:13 pm Saturday, March 20, 2010

When Daryl Love took over the Northwood-Kensett girls’ basketball program eight years ago games were sparsely attended and the players felt like they weren’t expected to win, but through the past eight seasons Love has helped turn the culture around and instill some pride with the girls’ basketball program.

The Vikings secured their first winning season with a 15-8 record for the first time since Iowa went to 5-on-5 girls’ basketball in 1993 and the losing seasons likely date back farther than that. For his efforts in helping turn around the program Love is this year’s Albert Lea Tribune All-Area girls’ basketball Coach of the Year.

“In the past they were just willing to accept the fact that Northwood-Kensett wasn’t good at girls’ sports and we weren’t going to win,” Love said. “It didn’t make any difference if you worked at it or not. It used to be they’d come and tell me in the locker room, ‘Hey, we played a good second quarter tonight, didn’t we coach?’ ‘Why didn’t we do that for four quarters?’ ‘Well, they were better than we were.’ If you can play with them for one, you can play with them all the time. You just have to think that you can. I think we’re at that point right now.”

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An influx of talent like senior Kate Hartman, a second team all-state selection who averaged 23.5 points per game and 16 rebounds, helps, but the approach to winning needed to spread to each player.

Hartman helped set the tone with her leadership and work ethic through the past four years and the younger players have taken note.

“Because of her work ethic and her drive, that leadership we had from her and some of the other seniors they know now, the young girls, what the expectations of the program are and what we need to do to be competitive,” Love said. “I think we were lacking in that in the past.”

Picking up victories also reinforced that hard work pays off and the younger girls also saw that.

The Vikings reached a 15-8 mark without senior Kjirsti Davidson, who was the team’s second-leading scorer the previous season. Davidson suffered a knee injury early in the season and missed the rest of the season. Her injury forced Love to shuffle the lineup and insert a freshman into the starting varsity point guard role.

Love wonders what the season could have looked like with a healthy Davidson, but getting where the team got without her is a credit to his coaching and the girls’ attitude.

Love has worked to create a record book for the program, no cumulative account existed before, and he has used the record book to inspire confidence in players.

Love said the past season has felt rewarding and he’s enjoyed watching the girls take pride in their team.

“You hate to say that, but it’s been actually fun to see their disappointment when they have lost because there were times in the past you didn’t see that in the locker room,” Love said. “Now they really take it to heart.”

Northwood-Kensett has beaten every conference opponent except North Butler, the perennial conference champion, and had a chance to knock the Bearcats off late in the season. The Vikings lost 40-34 when North Butler was ranked third in the state.

The pride the girls have taken in basketball has started to carry over into other sports at Northwood-Kensett, Love said.

“I think our girls numbers in track have been up over the past several years,” Love said. “I think the girls aren’t so afraid of work anymore. I think they’re seeing what it takes to be successful and I think they’re having fun doing it, I hope.”

Hartman graduates this year and losing her will impact the program, but Love thinks the team will remain competitive in the future.

“We’ve got the talent to be competitive down the road, it’ll just depend on what we get for leadership out of the girls we have coming back,” Love said.