FELTON — After spending most of her coaching career in the college ranks, Trenita Shields is the first to admit she’s pretty demanding.
The former Delaware State assistant said she thinks about taking it easier on her Lake Forest High players sometimes.
“But then I thought, I’d be doing them an injustice if I came down to where they are,” said Shields, who is in her fourth season with the Spartans. “So they have to meet me where I am.”
The results of Shields’ high expectations speak for themselves.
No. 16 Lake Forest (14-6) will be making its fourth straight appearance in the DIAA state tournament when it hosts Henlopen South rival Milford (12-8), the 17th seed, in an opening-round contest today at 7 p.m.
Before starting their current run, the Spartans hadn’t made the state tournament — or had a winning season — in at least six years. They are now 57-28 in four seasons under Shields.
The players admit it’s not always easy playing for a demanding coach. But they like the results.
“During the process, when she’s pushing us and expecting a lot out of us, we tend to think, ‘Oh, Coach is getting on us,’” said senior guard Mya Maddox. “But, in the back of our heads, we know she’s just trying to make the best out of us.
“It shows how hard we work during the season and how good of a coach that we have,” Maddox said about Lake’s run of state tournament appearances.
When she first came to Lake Forest, Shields didn’t know how long it would take to get the Spartans on track. Lake went 8-12 the year before but then went 16-6 right off the bat.
Now she’s seen that the Spartans are capable of winning consistently, Shields wants to keep things going.
“They’ve made a pretty good run and made a name for themselves,” she said about her players. “I didn’t know what I was walking into. … Now that I know what it is, I want to stay there. Each year we’ve worked harder and harder to get there.”
The Spartans have twice won first-round tourney contests during this streak. A year ago, they fell to Dover, 42-38, in their opener.
Getting past Milford, however, won’t be easy.
The teams split their two regular-season meetings with Lake Forest winning, 50-37, on Dec. 16 before the Buccaneers got revenge, 42-37, on Feb. 2.
The winner of today’s game goes to Wilmington to take on top-seeded Ursuline (19-1) in Thursday’s second round.
“It’s always a tense game but we owe them one,” Lake senior Arika Burrell said about facing Milford again.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting game,” said Maddox. “I think we’re going to go back and forth with each other.
“I think it’s a good thing because it draws one of the biggest crowds we have. Every year, the student section is filled up. The stands are filled up with both of our crowds. Because we’re so close, I think it brings a lot of energy to the game. It’s a pretty exciting feeling to play Milford. I wouldn’t want to play anybody else.”
While Maddox played at Woodbridge her freshman season, Lake’s other seniors were the class that were freshmen when Shields was first hired. Besides Burrell, that group also includes Alexia Cornish, Yasmine Rowley and Nicole Scott.
Maddox and Burrell will both play for Shields in the Blue-Gold All-Star game on March 18.
Burrell said she’s glad Shields was her high school coach.
“I never imagined myself playing Blue-Gold or making the state tournament with my team,” said Burrell. “I mean she’s taught me a whole lot. I don’t think I’d be the player I am if it wasn’t for her.”
Ravens’ game at Polytech
The DIAA has decided that the St. Thomas More boys’ second-round ‘home game’ on Friday will be played at Polytech.
The second-seeded Ravens (17-3) will face either St. Mark’s or Indian River. The state tournament committee determined that St. Thomas More’s gym does not meet the criteria for hosting a second-round game.
The small Magnolia school hosted first-round game in both the boys’ and girls’ tournament last season.
Tickets are $5 for first and second-round games. Tickets are $8 for this weekend’s quarterfinals at the Carpenter Center and are available at www.statechamps.com/DIAA. … Saturday’s girls’ quarterfinals will be played as one, four-game session. Sunday’s boys’ quarterfinals, however, will be broken up into two doubleheaders. The arena will be cleared out between the two twinbills with separate tickets required for each. The first session will start at 1 p.m. with the second one beginning at 6 p.m.
Reach sports editor Andy Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org