Before Mike Moulchin was hired as Clark’s girls basketball coach four years ago, he was informed of the Chargers’ record in the previous five seasons: 5-75.
Even after seeing shaky fundamentals and a lack of cohesiveness from the team he inherited, Moulchin thought he could guide Clark to the postseason within five years.
It took three.
And now the Chargers are in a spot virtually no one could foresee — contenders for a league title. Clark returns four starters from a team that finished 7-3 and second in the Division I-A Sunset League last year.
“When I got here, the kids didn’t know a zone from a fast break; we were at ground zero,” Moulchin said. “I took a big gamble my second year and started five freshmen, but we needed a total reboot. We were beyond 6 feet under.”
The Chargers went 11-34 in Moulchin’s first two seasons before finishing 12-15 last year.
“The kids have gotten better; the feeder schools have gotten better,” Moulchin said. “Moving to Division I-A obviously has helped, but we’ve got kids who can play now. I’m not just excited about this year. I’m excited about the next three or four.”
Moulchin isn’t the only one excited. As the team shows signs of success, interest from outside the program is growing.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that people are actually coming out to watch Clark play,” junior guard Bobbi Floyd said. “We’ve come so far, but we know we can be better. It’s a real motivator.”
Floyd, who has received interest from Delaware State, UNLV and UC Santa Barbara, averaged 13.3 points and 10.6 rebounds last season and has the potential to be one of the state’s top players.
“We knew Bobbi was a player, but we had to develop a supporting cast,” Moulchin said. “I think we’ve done that.”
Point guard Ci’Quadya Belser, a senior in her second year at Clark, is back after averaging 7.1 points and leading the team in assists last year.
“Having her at the point has really stabilized us,” Moulchin said. “When she came to us, it was like a gift from the gods. I didn’t really have a point guard my first two years here.”
Also key to the Chargers’ success will be sophomore Karlicia Stroughter (6.5 ppg) and senior Johnice Bland (6.8 ppg), though the Chargers are focused as much or more on defense than offensive production.
“Defense wins games; offense sells tickets,” Stroughter said. “We’re working harder this year.”
Clark expects to be more aggressive this season with what Moulchin calls the deepest team he has had at the school.
“I’ve finally got nine girls who can play,” Moulchin said. “You say that hesitantly because they’ve never really been in this position. But it helps us. It’s made the competition tougher. That’s beautiful; it’s how it’s supposed to be.”
Faith Lutheran won the Sunset League last season, going 10-0 in league play. Cheyenne tied with Clark for second, though the Chargers were the higher playoff seed. The Crusaders and Desert Shields lost key players to graduation, opening the door for Clark to potentially contend for the top spot.
“We actually have chemistry on the team now,” Belser said. “We’re a family now. We have more confidence this year.”