NHS juniors expected to do the heavy lifting this year

NASELLE - The Naselle High School girls basketball team enters the 2003-04 season with its second complete coaching change in the last four years.

Head coach Bob Torppa and assistant coach Robin Andrea are assuming the Naselle girls basketball coaching duties this year. They succeed Rob Dalton and Tim Wirkkala, who had taken the coaching reins three years ago. Scott Smith and Greg Nelson coached the girl Comets for several years before that.

The Comets will not only have an all new coaching staff, they will also be starting with an entirely new varsity lineup as the top six players all graduated from last year's state tournament seventh place team. Gone from the Comets are Nora Darcher, Lucy Rubio, Abbie Smith, Fritha Davern, Tiffany Pauly and Dawn Herman.

The Comets have only one senior returning, Nichole Matthews. They will depend on a large junior class turnout, including experienced varsity players Kelli Revis, Annie Herrold and Katie Klinger, as well as Toni Abbott, Jamie Hines and Jamie Ahlstrom, to provide varsity leadership. Sophomore Cheryl Steppe and freshmen Erin Saari and Colette Beaulaurier are also leading candidates to see much varsity playing time.

"I am real pleased to have such a large turnout," coach Torppa said. "While we haven't yet had everyone at practice because of illness, we should have about 25 girls when they are all present. If we have a consistent turnout of 25 or more players, we will also hope to have a C-squad team.

"As of right now, we plan to carry eight players on the varsity, with two others playing both varsity and JV. At tournament time, we would add more players to the varsity for a total of 12 varsity players."

Torppa, a 1978 NHS graduate, was a member of one of the Comets' most successful boys teams. During Torppa's senior year, the Comets finished second in the state tournament, winning the league and district titles along the way with a 26-2 record under the coaching of Lyle Patterson.

"Coach Patterson has been one of the most influential people in my life. He was our coach, a father figure to me and I coached under him for several years. Right up to the present time, Coach Patterson calls us or stops in to see us when he is in this area from his home in Longview."

Upon graduation from NHS, Torppa had signed a letter of intent to attend Grays Harbor College. However marriage, work and raising a family interrupted those plans.

Torppa began his coaching career when, "I started with the little kids in the fifth and sixth grade when my son was playing at that level in 1989 to 91," he explained. He then became the eighth-grade boys basketball coach for the 1991-92 season.

Moving up to be Patterson's assistant, Torppa then coached the Comets boys JV. for five seasons, from 1992 through 1997. He resigned from coaching for three years after that period of working with the boys high school team.

Torppa reentered the coaching ranks as the boys eighth grade basketball coach in 2001 through 2003. He also was elected to the school board, serving on the board during those years, which meant that his coaching was done as a volunteer.

He decided that he wanted to get back into the "full-time" coaching ranks and, in order to do that, he first chose not to run for reelection to the board and then resigned from the board so he could apply for the girls coaching job when that job came open. Torppa was then hired to be the Comets head girls basketball coach for the 2003-04 season.

"We hope to see a lot of people come out to see us play," Torppa said. "Since this is almost a whole new team, with new coaches, people aren't quite sure what to expect. But these girls have practiced for two years against the group of girls who graduated last year and now it is their turn."

Assistant coach Andrea, also the Naselle Youth Camp School principal, has been coaching since 1972, first as an assistant in football, basketball (boys) and baseball at Peninsula High School (Gig Harbor) until 1975.

From 1975 until 1981, he was the head football coach and head girls basketball coach (1976-81) at Bethel High School.

"The girl's basketball team won the league championship in the South Puget Sound League in 1976, defeating the previous year's champion with two free throws and no time on the clock. It was a storybook ending," Andrea said.

From 1981 until 1984, Andrea was an assistant football coach, special teams coordinator coaching tight ends one year and running backs two years, at Utah State University.

Returning to the Northwest, from 1984 until 1989 he was head football coach the final two years at Kent-Meridian High School and head girls basketball coach the final three years there while an assistant in football the first years.

"The most memorable season in girl's basketball, we finished 4th in league, 4th in district, then squeaking into the State Tournament at Seattle Coliseum, played in the game for 4th and 7th and took 7th in State trophy. We darn near had three 4s," Andrea laughed.

Moving even closer to Naselle, Andrea, from 1989 until 2000, was the head football coach at Astoria High School. He finished as the coach with the most wins in school history with 52 wins.

Andrea resigned from Astoria to accept the NYC principal a year ago. When the Naselle girls basketball team went looking for new coaches, Andrea threw his hat back into the coaching ring.

"My essential philosophy is to coach on the run, pay attention to details and there is always a way to win. In girl's basketball ... play defensive with controlled abandon and get the ball as deep as we can as fast as we can ... under control," Andrea concluded.

The Naselle girls will began their season in a jamboree at Warrenton, Oregon Monday, Dec. 1. They will travel to Cathlamet on Wednesday, Dec. 3, for a non-league contest with the Mules. The Comets girls will complete a busy opening week with a Pacific League home game against Northwest Christian Thursday, Dec. 4. They entertain Oakville Tuesday, Dec. 9, in another league game.

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