Starting fast is a priority for the Effingham Lady Hearts this season.
They've done it with aplomb early on, and it showed again Thursday during their 59-19 win over Paris.
Effingham scored the first 18 points of the game against the overmatched Lady Tigers, in what would turn into a rout for the Hearts' ninth straight win to open the season.
While it's always been a key point of head coach Jeff Schafer's, the roster he has this season has shown little trouble getting going out of the gates.
"We've started a lot of different people, based on who we're playing, to match up better defensively," Schafer said. "It's worked so far.
That's the nice thing about having such good depth, being able to play nine or 10 kids and have them do their roles."
This time, it was Caitlin Kaufman leading the charge for Effingham. She tallied the Hearts' first seven points in the game's opening two minutes, and would total 11 of the first 18 by the 2:29 mark as Effingham led 18-0.
Paris' Libby Lawson broke the scoring streak with a jumper with 2:16 left, but Josie Zerrusen poured in seven quick points to make it a 25-4 game after one quarter.
The second quarter brought about more of the same, as Effingham continued its blitz of Paris. This time, it was Jantzen Michael and Kaufman providing the offense, and Effingham grabbed a 42-10 lead at the half.
Schafer was quick to point out the play of his point guard Michael, who also tallied eight assists on the night.
"Jantzen's getting better all the time at running the point," he said. "She's a gamer, she shows up for the big games."
From there, the Hearts kept at it and worked on specific parts of their game, like running high-low offense and offensive sets based around a box-and-one defense Paris had been showing.
But it was the defense that shined early and often, as Effingham swarmed Paris ballhandlers and forced them into bad shots time and time again.
Kaufman led all scorers with 18, nearly outscoring Paris by herself, while Michael added 15 and Zerrusen had 12 points.
The Hearts are now 4-0 in Apollo play, and have won 31 of their past 32 games dating back to last season.
It's been the start Schafer wanted coming out of last year's 26-4 season.
"So far, so good, because I think we have been improving every game," he said. "They're not satisfied."
Effingham is off until Thursday, when they open the Charleston Holiday Tournament with a familiar foe -- the same Paris team they crushed Thursday.
Paris 4 6 2 7 19
Effingham 25 17 10 7 59
Paris: Lau 2, Keller 6, Lawson 4, Bradford 2, Switzer 1, Volkmann 4
Effingham: Michael 15, Stephenson 3, Kaufman 18, Robb 2, Zerrusen 12, Steffen 6, Nunamaker 2, Field 1
Effingham wins ninth straight to open season
Starting fast is a priority for the Effingham Lady Hearts this season.
Illini coach Groce stops in Effingham; Speech focuses on team building
A crowded ballroom met for "An Evening with John Groce” Thursday inside the Thelma Keller Convention Center.
Groce has been the men's basketball coach at the University of Illinois since March 2012. Prior to that, he was the head coach at Ohio University, where he led the Bobcats to a Sweet 16 appearance in 2012.
His speech was focused on team building and Groce said it was the a variation of the same speech he will give Sunday evening at his beginning-of-the-year players' meeting.
St. Anthony second at Charleston scramble
In their first meet of the season, the St. Anthony Bulldogs came out firing, taking second place at the Charleston Invitational Thursday afternoon.
The tournament was a scramble at Charleston Country Club, and the hosting Trojans took home the tournament with a combined score of 72. St. Anthony was five shots back, shooting a 77. Effingham finished fourth with an 88, and Teutopolis took ninth with a 98.
Czachorski: Lunt the right man at QB
There haven't been many times I've put pen to paper — or I guess more fittingly finger to keyboard — and written about the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Part of it is due to their football team's struggles, as it's hard to have an opinion on them outside of "man, they went 1-7 in the Big 10 last year" or "I remember that one time they went to the Rose Bowl, but that's about it." Part of it is staying in my wheelhouse, which is MAC football and my alma mater Central Michigan Chippewas, a topic that doesn't concern many, if any, around here.
Neoga prepares for upcoming volleyball season
Another area team finds themselves with a new coach holding the clipboard this season.
Susan Hutchinson is the new volleyball coach for the Neoga Indians, but she isn't new to the game of volleyball. Hutchinson coached at Mattoon for seven years when they were still in the Big 12 Conference. She said her new players had to get used to her coaching style very quickly.
Bulldogs fifth at ISU
St. Anthony took to the links for the second-straight day and had a strong showing at the Raider/Redbird Classic.
The Bulldogs finished fifth among a 20-team field, shooting a 318. East Peoria shot a 312 to win it, Normal U-High and Lincoln each shot 315s with Normal winning the tie-breaker, and Bloomington took fourth with a 317.
St. Anthony will lead with speed
For the last five years, Eric Morales has been the assistant coach of the St. Anthony Bulldogs soccer team. But this season he will have his chance at the helm and try to help lead the Bulldogs to their first regional title since 2010.
St. Anthony is missing six seniors from last years team, including its leading goal scorer and starting goalie.
Flaming Hearts win St. Anthony Invitational
The Flaming Hearts of Effingham were the overall winners and also had the medalist. Effingham shot a team score of 312 to beat the host Bulldogs by nine shots. Hearts senior Jackson Wendling finished with a 72 to take medalist honors.
Teutopolis takes opener against St. Thomas More
Teutopolis took the course with a new coach and four players, but as coach Becky Probst said, it takes four to score.
And those four Lady Shoes took their first match of the year, topping Champaign St. Thomas More 216-227 in both teams' openers at Cardinal Golf Course in Effingham.
Time to tee off, golf season starts fall sports campaign today
The fall sports campaign kicks off in earnest Monday afternoon, with the first area varsity contests being held in Windsor and Effingham this afternoon.
The St. Anthony Invitational boys golf tournament will be held at Fox Prairie Golf Course at 1 p.m. in Windsor, while the Teutopolis Lady Shoes host St. Thomas More at Cardinal Golf Course at 4 p.m.
Flaming Hearts' flexibility a plus; Effingham prepping for upcoming soccer season
Three days into the practice season, Effingham soccer coach Aaron Witges sees a lot of flexibility.
It was something his squad had last year, with 10 seniors but young players forcing their way into the lineup as well.
Coming off a 10-8-3 season, some of those young players will find themselves in new positions for the Flaming Hearts this season.
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- Illini coach Groce stops in Effingham; Speech focuses on team building