GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEWS: Spartans girls are unknown no more
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
At this time last year, the Spartan girls basketball team was an unknown — a group of young players with high expectations for themselves but with little respect from anyone else.
Heading into the 2011-12 season, the Superior High School girls have the full attention of their opponents.
“They don’t even know what’s coming this year,” said senior Raya Kosey. “They’re expecting good; we’re going to give them great.”
Superior returns all of its starters from a team that, last season, advanced to the WIAA Division 1 sectional finals. Superior finished with an 18-7 record and claimed the Lake Superior Conference title with a perfect 10-0 record in league play.
Phil Roe, the SHS boys basketball assistant coach for the past five years, takes over as head coach of the girls team this year. He replaces Dan Schulz, who stepped down last year to spend more time with his family.
“He (Schulz) dedicated so much to us. Between summer and the season and offseason, he was in it 100 percent,” said senior Sammy DeMeyer. “He created our family last year. That was the reason we went as far as we did.”
Superior has most of its “family” back this season. The Spartans lost only three seniors to graduation, two of whom missed the majority of the season due to injury.
“There’s a lot of talent, but there’s also a lot of expectations,” Roe said. “For me it’s a really nice situation to go into because there is a lot of talent here, a lot of good kids.”
Kosey and DeMeyer — the only juniors on last year’s team — are joined by three other seniors who decided to play again this year after a few seasons away from the sport. Dani Magdzas and Allison Gotelaere last played in their sophomore seasons, while Abby O’Shaughnessy played for Superior as a freshman.
“We played with them when we were in traveling teams,” Kosey said. “It brings back memories.”
DeMeyer averaged 8.8 points per game last season, and Kosey led the team in assists. Both seniors will fill starting roles as shooting guards this year but have past experience at point guard if needed.
The Spartans also bring back a pair of sophomores who made a name for themselves in their first year of varsity play.
Hailey Kontny and Jessica Lindstrom led the Spartans as freshmen and will be the targets of many opponents this season.
“Everyone in our division knows Hailey and Jess,” Kosey said. “They know how it’s going to be.”
Lindstrom gives the Spartans a threat in the paint and at the perimeter, where she made 43 percent of her shots last year. As a freshman she averaged 18.6 points and 12.4 rebounds per game to go along with 3.1 steals and 1.9 blocks.
Kontny, who will play point guard, can post up inside but also has a quick first step and reliable jump shot. She averaged 14.7 points, eight rebounds and two steals per game last season.
Both sophomores say they’re ready for the extra pressure they’ll no doubt face.
“You just can’t get intimidated,” Lindstrom said. “I take it as a challenge to live up to the expectations.”
Lindstrom and Kontny also said they welcome the extra attention of defenders. In their eyes, that just gives their teammates better opportunities to score.
“We’re all capable of depending on each other,” DeMeyer said. “During crunch time, we can trust anyone to be there, which is a great feeling.”
“I think we feel pretty confident in our team,” Kontny said. “It takes a whole team to get to the state championship.”
A definite strength for this year’s Spartans is the speed and athleticism of the players. Roe said he has 12 girls on the varsity squad who are “just pure athletes that can get up and down the court real quick.”
On offense, that means Superior will be looking to push the ball more and create easy layups.
On the other side of the court, the Spartans will use an active man-to-man defense with strong on-the-ball pressure. Superior will also mix in zone and specialty defenses as needed, Roe said, and opponents can expect more full-court pressure.
“Anyone who’s watched me coach, whether it’s guys or girls the last six years, knows that I like to play a more up-tempo style,” Roe said. “The kids are adjusting to that, but I really think it complements their athleticism and their speed.”
Superior opens its season Thursday with an away game against the Northwestern Tigers. The Spartans won last year’s contest with the Tigers 62-34 in a highly physical game.
Thursday’s game in Maple is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be a good year,” Roe said. “We have to come together as a team and play good, unselfish basketball and focus on shutting teams out defensively. If we stick to those two simple things, this team can be unstoppable.”
Superior got its first look at the conference competition during the Lake Superior Conference Jamboree, held Nov. 21. Superior fared well against its opponents and is favored to repeat as conference champ, but Roe said the Spartans will not get ahead of themselves.
“It’s kind of a cliché for every coach, but our focus is one game at a time,” Roe said. “That’s really important. They know from experience in the Jamboree that there are good teams in our conference.”
The girls also know that Superior is the team with a target on its back.
One rival already gunning for the Spartans is Ashland. Last year, the Oredockers fell to Superior in overtime early in the season and then lost the rematch in March by three points, again in overtime.
The Oredockers are without key players from last season, including Anika Whiting and Barb Malyuk, but Ashland will be playing its best for a chance to avenge last year’s two overtime losses.
At the LSC Jamboree, the Oredockers beat Superior by one point in their scrimmage.
“Usually our biggest rival is Duluth East, but lately it’s been Ashland,” DeMeyer said. “They’re gunning for us.”
Roe predicted Ashland, Denfeld and Hermantown would challenge Superior for the conference title this season.
Superior begins LSC play with its home opener on Dec. 13, when the Spartans face off against Ashland.
“It will be a good game,” Kosey said. “Bring your cameras.”
3. Abby Clemons Jr. G
11. Raya Kosey Sr. G
12. Alison Wainionpaa Jr. G
14. Dani Magdzas Sr. F/C
20. Ally Gotelaere Sr. G
21. Jessica Lindstrom So. G/F
22. Kallyn Lagro Jr. F/C
23. Natalie Kintop Jr. G
24. Abby O’Shaughnessy Sr. G
25. Hailey Kontny So. G
32. Leah Holmes Jr. F
33. Sammy DeMeyer Sr. G
Richard Windt enters his second season as head coach of the Northwestern Tigers with two starters returning from last year.
Ally May, a senior, is back as Northwestern’s leading rebounder. She averaged 5.9 rebounds per game and was second on the team in scoring behind Liz Urbaniak, one of six seniors to graduate from the 2010-11 team.
Lynsey Anttila is the only other senior on the Northwestern team this season, and she will help the Tigers keep the game moving quickly.
Among the group of six juniors on the varsity squad, Aliex Friend brings the most experience, though Jordan Johnson, Angela Snow and Tess Nelson also saw time on the court last year. Alyssa Correll, only a freshman, is expected to have an immediate impact for Northwestern this season.
The Tigers finished 4-10 in the Heart O’ North Conference last season with a 6-18 overall record. They hope to improve upon that mark this season with a bevy of fleet-footed guards giving them the advantage of speed.
2. Ally May Sr.
3. Lynsey Anttila Sr.
10. Amanda Ogren Fr.
11. Aliex Friend Jr.
13. Jordan Johnson Jr.
14. Gwen LaPole Jr.
21. Tess Nelson Jr.
22. Katie Hansen Jr.
30. Angela Snow Jr.
34. Alyssa Correll Fr.
Solon Springs Eagles
The Eagles are hoping a year of experience and an offseason of hard work will give them the boost they need to revive the girls basketball program in Solon Springs.
Last season was a learning experience for the fledgling Eagles. With only four sophomores and six freshmen out for basketball, Solon Springs had one of the youngest teams in Wisconsin.
To make matters worse, the Eagles had to cancel their junior varsity program due to low numbers. That left the young players with no choice but to take their lumps at the varsity level and look forward to the 2011-12 season.
All 10 players are back this year, and with five freshmen and one sophomore new to the team, Solon Springs will again have a junior varsity squad. The freshman girls will be allowed to develop their skills at the JV level, while sophomore Alicia Jensen will play at forward on the varsity team.
Among the leading varsity players returning for Solon Springs are Autumn Blaylock, Rachel Grubbe and Brittney Armstrong at guard, Shayla Bornholdt at forward and Valerie Garay at center.
Solon Springs Eagles
1. Alicia Jensen So. F
3. Taylor Anderson So. F
5. Autumn Blaylock So. G
12. Valerie Garay Jr. C
15. Rachel Grubbe So. G
22. Jasmine Johnson Jr. G
23. Brittney Armstrong Jr. G
24. Caitlyn Coleman So. G
25. Tylor Kruse So. F
32. Shayla Bordholdt So. F
45. Shelby Johnson Jr. G
The group of athletes that led Northwood for the past four years has moved on, but the Evergreen girls left behind quite a legacy: Three straight Central Lakeland Conference championships, a 46-1 home record spanning four seasons and the first ever trip to the state tournament for the Northwood girls basketball team.
Northwood lost seven seniors from last year’s team. Annie Block, Ashley Block and Deanna Scheller were all four-year varsity players for Northwood; while Bailey Burns, Erica Goettl, Jenna Melby and Sara Radzak assumed key roles last year.
The Evergreens have a very different look for the 2011-12 season, returning only a handful of players with significant varsity experience.
Most of Northwood’s experience comes at guard, with Teagen Harings, Morgan Block, Rachel Pollock and Sarah Benson all returning at that position. Benson missed most of last season with a knee injury but is expected to be the Evergreens’ leading scorer this year.
Harings and Pollock are the only seniors on this year’s varsity team, which also includes five juniors, one sophomore and two freshmen.
1. Rachel Pollock Sr. G
3. Molly Linden Jr. G
5. Morgan Block Jr. G
10. Jessica Hill Jr. F
11. Mckayla Waggoner Fr. F
23. Kaity Harwick So. G
30. Elise Burns Fr. F
32. Sarah Benson Jr. G
33. Teagen Harings Sr. F
45. Amber Denninger Jr. F