"It's defense," said Archbold coach Brian Ziegler, whose team began the week 14-1 overall, 6-0 in the NWOAL, and ranked No. 2 in Ohio in Division III.
Playing defense is the priority in the Blue Streaks’ camp.
It's the first word. It's the last word.
It's really the only word that matters for a team that may spend more time practicing defensive skills and concepts than offensive aspects of the game.
The Blue Streaks, who won their first eight games this season before suffering a 60-56 loss at Bowling Green, have enjoyed plenty of success with this approach.
"We like to create offense with our defense," Ziegler said.
Archbold is scoring nearly twice as many points per game as their competition, averaging 58 points to opponents’ 36.
"We work on our defense, and our defense is what makes our offense go," said 5-foot-9 junior Cassidy Wyse, who was an All-Ohio second-team selection in Division III last season.
The Blue Streaks’ defense-first approach worked well in a recent 54-40 victory at Patrick Henry, handing the Patriots their first league loss. Many of Archbold's points came from layups from Patrick Henry turnovers.
"Our defense really sets up our offense to get us points," said 5-9 junior guard Jesse Fidler, who poured in a game-high 17 points against PH.
Archbold posted a 20-0 regular-season record last season for the first time in school history. It finished 24-1, which included a school record 24-game win streak. The Streaks fell 40-32 to Liberty-Benton in the regional semifinals.
Wyse is the top returner from last season's squad and averages a team-best 14.4 points per game. The forward is the only Blue Streak averaging double figures in scoring.
However, she's not just the leading scorer. Her 85 steals (5.7 per game) are also a team-best and represents her impact defense.
"She plays at both ends of the court," Ziegler said. "She could probably average even more points, but she's also asked to play defense against our opponents' top players."
Wyse also leads the team in rebounds (6.6), assists (2.9), and has recorded a total of 14 blocked shots.
The Blue Streaks have six players back from last year, giving them good depth and allowing Ziegler to employ fullcourt pressure for an entire game if necessary.
Senior Taylor Coressel (5-6, guard), senior Darian Oberlin (5-9, guard-forward), sophomore Cassidy Williams (5-8, guard), sophomore Hanna Hesterman (5-10, forward) and Fidler have continued the success they enjoyed last season.
Fidler is the second-leading scorer (8.6) and rebounder (4.1). Coressel has also been a steady scorer (8.1) while also averaging 4.1 steals and 2.5 assists.
Hesterman averages 7.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, and has 13 blocked shots.
The Blue Streaks remain focused on finishing the season as strong as they started it. That means repeating as NWOAL champions is high on the priority list, as well as making a strong tournament run.
"It's all we work for every year basically," Wyse said. "Every game is always the next step."
Of course, it all begins and ends with defense.
"Our defense is pretty stacked, and we really pressure teams more than they expect," Fidler said. "I just hope we can keep pushing it each day in practice and get better and better."
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.