GAINESVILLE, Va. (DC News Now) — When it comes to high school girls’ basketball in northern Virginia, there are a few public schools that come to mind. 

Madison, Oakton, Robinson, and Osbourn Park are just a few of the teams with talented traditions spanning multiple decades. 

But there is a new team, Gainesville, that is trying to put their program on the map.

“Good programs rely on culture and tradition,” said Gainesville girls’ basketball head coach Daniel Nemerow. “We don’t have any of that. We can’t say that so and so played here. The balls are brand new and no one ever shot on the basket until we got in the gym.”

Gainesville High School opened their doors to their students for the first time in 2021. Meaning their athletic programs, including their girls basketball team, are less than two years old. 

“It’s exciting,” said Nemerow. “It can be daunting a little bit because you don’t know what you’re going to have.”

Coach Nemerow new what it took to start a program from scratch. Over a decade ago, Nemerow started up the Patriot boys’ basketball program when the school first opened.

“That’s helped tremendously,” said Nemerow. “That experience, I learned a lot. Not just about the ins and outs of starting a program, but sort of some things I wanted to keep and some things I maybe wanted to do different.”

Hiring a coach for a new school is one thing, but getting the kids to fill the program is another. Many of the kids from neighboring schools had to make a decision: stick with the school they were at, or take a chance at Gainesville.

“At first, me and my parents were hesitant coming here because we didn’t know how the basketball program was going to be, and we didn’t know if we should risk that,” said junior guard Madison McKenzie. “But, the feeling was, I can take an opportunity to become a player that’s seen rather than a player that’s hid.”

The first year didn’t start off on a high note for Gainesville girls basketball. Before they even hopped on the court, the team was faced with adversity. 

“We didn’t have a gym,” said Nemerow. “The school wasn’t unlocked or opened or released to us yet. It was still under construction. So, we couldn’t work out, we couldn’t have open gyms, we couldn’t do anything.”

However, the team didn’t use that as an excuse, and in their first year, had a winning season, going 12-10.

“I don’t think any of us expected to have a winning season last year,” said McKenzie. “But, we are very grateful that we did. We’re already working harder. We’re going to work a thousand times harder to go far this year.”

“Last year was more of like testing out the waters,” said junior guard Ella Nhek. “Now, we have that baseline. We have that standard to say, okay, we’re going to make that jump and we’re going to put it all out there.”

The jump from year one to year two has been a success. Already hitting their win total from last season and not just competing with top teams, but beating the top teams. 

“A huge credit goes to them of just trusting in me and our coaching staff of this is what we think can win, and then go do it,” said Nemerow.

“You could see a preview of what was coming next year,” said Nhek. “We just needed a couple more pieces put together, and it really completed the team I feel like this year.”

“We found out a way to play at a pace we like,” said McKenzie. “We’re not coming in as the team that’s only been playing for one year. We’re not the underdogs, we’re trying to be the upper dogs actually.”

That upper dog mentality has put Gainesville girls basketball on the map, and has brought fear in the teams that take the court against the Cardinals.

“Good teams know that we are good, and strategizing as far as what we are going to do,” said Nhek. “I definitely feel the respect piece. You know, all the coaches you talk to, it’s ‘where’s Gainesville at? What are they doing? Why are they winning?’”

“I don’t think anyone takes us lightly,” said Nemerow. “That would be a mistake for anyone to take us lightly if I’m being honest. I think the girls have done a good job of building a reputation very quickly for our program that we are one to take seriously.”