First day of practice at Palisade exciting for players, new coach

Holly Odneal in a drill at tryouts

Toni Gunther has been through plenty of first days, so Wednesday at Palisade High School was nothing new.

Well, one thing was new — it was her first day on the job as the head girls basketball coach for the Bulldogs.

“It is exciting and challenging because we have a lot of things to work out,” said Gunther, who took over for Jay D. Muller. “But we will get it and get everyone situated and get it going.”

Gunther spent the previous eight seasons at Plateau Valley as the head volleyball coach and the past four as the head coach for the basketball team. The change in scenery hasn’t changed the reaction of the players and coaches on the first day. Gunther said it doesn’t matter where she is, the first day is pretty much the same.

“I would say everyone is a little nervous,” Gunther said. “But it is good to have some butterflies. It shows they are ready.”

Gunther added the first day usually involves a lot of logistics, such as turning in paperwork and explaining what the girls can expect.

“We are just setting up what we are going to do as far as expectations for the tryouts and letting them know what is going to be happening,” Gunther said.

Wednesday marked the first day of winter sport practice across the valley, and for most basketball teams, that meant the first day of tryouts. For young players like Palisade freshman Dannette Vensel, the first day comes with a lot of unknowns.

“I am just wondering if I am going to make the team,” Vensel said. “It is pretty exciting and you have to work extra hard to prove yourself.”

On the other end of the spectrum is senior Holly Odneal, who is a returning all-Western Slope League player. Odneal’s spot on the roster is probably safe, but she said she’s still excited about the first day.

“I am glad it is here,” Odneal said. “We have been doing open gyms, which gives you a taste, but this is now the full season from here on out.”

Odneal is taking a good approach to the first day — not letting her previous achievements earn her a spot but her play on the court. She said having Gunther as the new coach is exciting, and everyone will have to prove themselves.

“I am a senior, but nobody has any standing because she doesn’t know us,” Odneal said. “So we all have to work just as hard because nobody has a place.”

It is a relatively quick turnaround for the schools to have tryouts and set their teams with the first games scheduled for the first weekend in December. Palisade’s girls tip off in three weeks against Fruita Monument.

“I just want us to do our absolute best,” Odneal said. “We have a lot of good athletes and a lot a good girls, which I am excited about.”


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