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They say progress is never a straight line.
First-year coaches like Woodridge girls basketball's Chris Nauer get evidence of this often.
The Bulldogs have been showing signs of progress in recent weeks, but there are still going to be tough stretches for teams as young as the Bulldogs.
The week began for Woodridge with a home date against Cloverleaf Jan. 21. The Colts ran wild on Woodridge early and came away with a 63-36 win.
Then on Jan. 23, Woodridge traveled to the Murdough Athletic Center in Hudson to take on Western Reserve Academy.
WRA used a lot of full-court pressure -- and a lot of junior Jade DuVal -- to overpower the Bulldogs and score a 51-36 win. With the win, WRA snapped a six-game losing streak.
Finally, Woodridge traveled to Field Jan. 25. After leading through three quarters, the Bulldogs lost by a score of 44-38.
Woodridge's record stands at 3-16, 1-10 the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division.
Against the Colts, Cloverleaf put the game out of reach early. The Colts took a 21-8 lead after one quarter and led 42-17 at halftime.
Woodridge coach Chris Nauer said reasons for his team's loss weren't hard to figure out.
"I told my girls in the locker room it's hard to win when you don't make free throws and give them extra possessions off rebounds," Nauer said. "This being a back-to-back for us, especially in the late part of the season, fatigue can be a factor."
WRA coach Emily Thews-Baldridge said the Pioneers were able to rattle Woodridge a little.
"I think they were getting a flustered, which is what usually happens to us," Thews-Baldridge said. "As I told the girls, for the first time, we won every quarter and we scored in double digits in every quarter. Those have been our goals all year."
The Bulldogs seemed to handle the Pioneers' full-court pressure well in the first quarter, as they kept things close at 13-11 after one quarter.
However, Woodridge seemed to lose its composure in the second quarter, as the Bulldogs managed only three points.
DuVal was the dominant force in the game for WRA. She not only earned 15 trips to the free throw line (hitting 12 of those shots), but also finished with a game-high 14 rebounds. DuVal finished with 22 points.
"She's been getting aggressive and did a good job getting to the free throw line," Thews-Baldridge said. "We actually have some pretty good outside shooters. We were moving the ball well tonight, which we haven't done well the last two weeks."
Down 23-14 at the half, Woodridge caught a glimmer of hope when forward Aniya Rashid caught fire from outside. Rashid hit three 3-pointers in the third quarter alone.
However, WRA answered with more inside play and kept the margin at nine points after three quarters at 38-29.
Rashid hit another 3-pointer to start the final quarter, but that would be it for field goals for Woodridge. Rashid finished with 18 points.
WRA finished 17-of-24 from the line, compared to 7-of-17 for the Bulldogs.
Along with DuVal's 22 points, WRA got eight points each from Caleigh Tiley and Abby King. Woodridge had nine points from Armani Artice.
Nauer said he felt that his team had "winnable games" in its last four contests, beginning with Field, which Woodridge narrowly lost to at home on Dec. 14.
Woodridge took a 10-5 lead after one quarter, but then fell behind 17-15 at halftime.
The Bulldogs then took a 28-25 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
However, much like the first contest between the two teams, Field made the plays it needed to down the stretch in order to get the win.
Woodridge again struggled on the boards, as the Falcons finished with a 35-20 rebounding edge.
Woodridge was led by nine points from guard Sophia DeBord and eight points from junior Anyah Parker.
Field junior Ryleigh Butler led all scorers with 16 points, while forward Jillian Piacella had 15 points and 14 rebounds.
The Bulldogs had a full week to get ready for its next home game, which will be Feb. 1 at 7 p.m vs. Coventry.