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A year ago, Travis Galloway was preparing his Notre Dame team for its first trip to the Division I state girls basketball tournament in Columbus.
Many expected that senior-led group loaded with talent to advance to the state tournament. The Eagles did just that.
With only one returning starter, expectations for this season’s Notre Dame team weren’t as lofty.
Yet, Galloway and the Eagles (25-3) are doing what they did at this time a year ago. They've been preparing to play in a state semifinal against Kettering Fairmont (25-1) tomorrow at 8 p.m.
"This season has been extremely enjoyable because everyone has come to play and understands what they have to do as individuals to make our team successful," said Galloway, who is The Blade's girls coach of the year.
It's been a surprisingly successful march through the season, which includes winning the Three Rivers Athletic Conference for a second straight season without losing a TRAC game. The Eagles, led by All-Blade players Jayda Worthy and Tierra Floyd, have also claimed district and regional championships for the second straight season.
Galloway, a 1997 Whitmer graduate, didn't waste time talking about rebuilding the program after the graduation of former Notre Dame standouts Cat Wells, Michelle Holmes, and Demy Whitaker. He simply reloaded the roster with players who also had plenty of talent, even though their skill sets didn't necessarily mirror those who came before them.
Nevertheless, Galloway will coach in the state semifinals for the second time in only five seasons as a varsity head coach.
"Both have been great rides and very, very enjoyable," said Galloway, referring to the last two seasons for the Eagles. "But there's been a big difference in the teams.
"Our team this year is not as athletic and is not as quick as last year's team. Last year's team was more of a finesse-like team that had a lot of highlight reel plays. This year's team is much bigger and much stronger and uses their size well as a group and is more of a possession-by-possession type team where we just try to grind out wins and play very solid on the defensive end, and we try to play very solid on the offensive end."
Galloway's coaching experience may seem on the limited side, considering he's only spent a total of 10 seasons coaching at the varsity level and only half of those as a head coach. Yet, the 33-year-old, who works full-time for a bio-hazardous waste company, credits working under Whitmer boys coach Bruce Smith and Whitmer girls coach Rhett Boyd with helping him. He started coaching as a volunteer within the Washington Local School District while he was still in college at the University of Toledo. He eventually worked his way into coaching as a junior varsity assistant under Smith after graduating from UT in 2003. He worked as a Notre Dame assistant for two years before taking over the program five years ago when Boyd returned to Whitmer.
Galloway has found the experience of coaching girls different than coaching boys.
"On the girls side, you don't have to deal too much with the individual egos as much as with the boys," Galloway said. "They're extremely coachable. You can tell them to go from Point A to Point B to Point C, and they'll go from Point A to Point B to Point C. The guys maybe ad-lib a little bit more."
Whether it's been coaching boys or girls, he remains enthusiastic every time he enters a gym.
"It's the camaraderie of the whole game," Galloway said. "I was a person who'd like to do the workouts and who liked to go to open gyms. I enjoyed the opportunity to have a chance to do that as a player, and as an adult, it's fun.
"It's something I enjoy doing, and I think that's important because as a coach you put so much time and effort into it. If you look at it as a job, you're not making the right decision as a coach. It's been enjoyable to have the camaraderie with not only the coaches, but with players and former players."