Orion girls' basketball coach John McBride tries to downplay preseason talk that has his team as a potential title favorite in the West Central Conference's North Division.|
However, with three-fifths of their starting lineup returning -- led by the senior interior duo of 6-foot-1 center Cassidy Clark (15.5 points, 11 rebounds, 6 blocked shots per game) and 6-foot forward Katie Garrity (7.5 points, 8 rebounds), such talk could be warranted.
"Everybody keeps telling me that, and obviously, you're always optimistic going into the season,'' said McBride, whose club finished 13-16 last winter. "I feel like this is as good a team as we've had in awhile, with better balance between the guards and the posts.''
However, McBride admits losing guards Ashley Anderson and Emily McVietty, both of whom averaged over 10 points per game last season, is a void that will be tough to fill.
"It'll take some time to get that experience back,'' he said, "but we expect this to be a good year for us. We don't see any reason why we can't contend.''
Yet, don't overlook reigning conference champion Sherrard, which set a school record last year with 26 wins in 31 games as it reached the Class 2A sectional finals, with one point standing between the Tigers and an Elite Eight berth.
If coach Doug Swanson's club is to build off that success, it must replace the firepower lost by the graduation of guards Aimee Iverson and Karlee Rumler) and forward Abbey Warner.
"We lost a great group of seniors, but we do have a good core back,'' said Swanson, who returns two starters in senior guard Carly Adams (9.5 points) and forward Annie Winston (5.5 points, 4.5 rebounds). "It's big to have that to fill those leadership roles. We're excited with what we have; our seniors have been in big-game situations before.
"For us, it'll come down to what our bench players can do, and how they accept their roles. We'll still be able to push the tempo, but we've also got to slow it down a bit and use the size advantage we have. We relied on our guards last year, but now we have a good inside-out balance.''
Another WCC North club looking to replace graduated scoring is Rockridge (18-12). The Rockets graduated their entire starting five from 2011-12, including such top scorers as Emily Watkins, Caitlin McVay and Kaylee Moseley.
Rockridge coach Shawn Strachan is looking at defense to provide the foundation for this year's squad.
"Our defense is as good as a year ago, and we thought it was pretty good then,'' he said. "The issue is replacing the group of seniors that were our main scorers. We need other girls to step up and put the ball in the hole. For this senior group, it's an opportunity to step forward and take the team on their back after being great role players the last few years.''
At Monmouth-Roseville (12-19), the loss of point guard Ciara Marlow will be tough, but returning senior starters Jordain Johnson (11 points, 8 rebounds) and Colleen Judge (10 points) should help the Titans build on last year's improvement.
"We've got some good scoring back,'' said Mon-Rose coach Jim Cole, "but losing (Marlow) will hurt us. I hope we can fill that spot.''
WEST CENTRAL NORTH GIRLS' BASKETBALL CAPSULES
Coach: Jim Cole (7th year).
2011-12: 12-19 (1-9 WCC North).
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Colleen Judge (5-8 G), Jordain Johnson (5-10 F), Emily Lovdahl (5-6 G). Jrs.: Kim Jensen (5-10 F), Kayla Johnson (5-9 F). Soph.: Haley Johnston (5-9 F), Katie Staley (5-7 G).
Newcomers -- Jrs.: Natalie Baber (5-6 G), Cara Jensen (5-5 G). Fr.: Destiny Smith (5-9 G), Dyesha Taylor (5-9 F).
Coach: John McBride (5th year).
2011-12: 13-16 (3-7 WCC North)
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Cassidy Clark (6-1 C), Katie Garrity (6-0 F), Abby Taets (5-4 G), Morgan Dahl (6-0 F). Jrs.: Angie Minas (5-5 G), Baillie McCunn (5-9 G/F).
Newcomers -- Jrs.: Lexi Larson (5-9 F), Molly Adams (5-8 G/F). Soph.: Abby DeBaillie (5-6 G), Katie Conway (5-11 F).
Coach: Shawn Strachan (10th year).
2011-12: 18-12 (5-5 WCC North)
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Destiny Grawe (5-7 F), Miranda Potter (5-8 G), Mackenzie Robbins (5-7 F/C), Amie Kranz (5-4 G). Jr.: Beth Meier (5-4 G). Soph.: Michaela Stoneking (5-9 G), Madison Lape (5-5 G).
Newcomers -- Srs.: Taylor Cullen (5-9 C), Molly Wright (6-0 C). Jrs.: Devin Hasson (5-6 G), Abby Horton (5-8 F/C), Kaitlyn Stice (5-5 F), Jenna Preston (5-4 G/F), Meghan Gengler (5-5 G, transfer from Moline), Cheyenne Bowman (5-4 G).
Coach: Doug Swanson (3rd year).
2011-12: 26-5 (10-0 WCC North)
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Carly Adams (5-7 G), Erin Barton (5-8 G), Annie Winston (5-10 F). Jrs.: Riley Strandgard (5-10 F), Shelby Calderone (5-11 F).
Newcomers -- Jrs.: Skyler Setser (5-9 F), Tori Redpath (5-7 G), Kodee Mital (5-5 G), Anna Willems (5-4 G). Soph.: Libby Frye (5-6 G), Chelsey Crippen (5-11 F), Jordan Hutton (5-8 G), Macy Hutchinson (5-8 F).