By Matt Perkins
Last year, the area saw its three top scorers graduate from the girls basketball ranks in Upsala’s Bethany Burggraff and Kayla Tschida and Royalton’s Brooke Winscher. Each of the three individuals ended their careers on the highest of notes at their schools, reaching the 1,000-point milestone. This year, Upsala and Royalton will press on without their leading scorers, and the Prairie Conference could be more open for a young and talented team like the Swanville Bulldogs. However, Bulldogs head coach Pam Czech still has Upsala as the conference favorite.
Last year, the area saw its three top scorers graduate from the girls basketball ranks in Upsala’s Bethany Burggraff and Kayla Tschida and Royalton’s Brooke Winscher.
Each of the three individuals ended their careers on the highest of notes at their schools, reaching the 1,000-point milestone.
This year, Upsala and Royalton will press on without their leading scorers, and the Prairie Conference could be more open for a young and talented team like the Swanville Bulldogs.
However, Bulldogs head coach Pam Czech still has Upsala as the conference favorite.
Bulldogs set the tempo
In two games so far this season, the Swanville girls basketball team has scored a total of 49 points.
Their opponents have tallied 171 points.
Being outscored by an average of 36.5 in the first half of each game has forced Czech’s team to move away from the slow pace it would like to play at. The team is trying to improve on last season’s record of 1-24.
“We are hoping to hold our own with a strong defense and ‘our’ tempo of play,” Czech said.
But Czech said she is encouraged by how fast her young team is developing. They have been able to look to seniors Jayna Harthan and Jenna Hollermann for leadership, not to mention junior Tracy Fruechte, who scored 16 points against Kimball Monday.
“I am proud to see these girls working so hard,” she said following the team’s 88-20 loss to Pillager at home Tuesday. “I understand that my younger players need time to adjust to varsity play and to understand what is expected of them as freshmen and sophomores.
“We are young, but we are learning fast and things are already looking better for us as a team.”
Pioneers strong in post
The Pierz girls basketball team won the Subsection 18 title last season, only to lose to Albany in the Section 6AA championship game.
But that was nothing to be ashamed of, as Albany went on to finish second at the State Class AA tournament. Pierz finished the season 21-9.
And after losing 77-47 to Albany Tuesday to begin the year, the Pioneers are grateful they no longer have to deal with them in their new section (Section 5AA).
Still, the Pioneers have an uphill battle in getting back to the section title game, as they graduated six letterwinners last season, including three of their top-5 scorers in Kristin Sczublewski, Katie Sczublewski and Tina Pohlkamp.
That doesn’t mean head coach Rick Sczublewski can’t be optimistic.
“I think we can be in the mix for both the conference and the section titles,” he said. “We will be very athletic and give teams some tough match-up problems.”
The hardest Pioneer to guard will likely be senior center Katie Kimman, who was the team’s leading scorer (14.5 ppg) and rebounder (7.1 rpg) last season.
The Pioneers also return senior guard Kelsey Saehr and junior forward Gabrielle Boser, who were part-time starters last year.
“We will be very good defensively, and we’ll look to use our post players a lot,” Sczublewski said. “Kimman and Boser will give us as good of an inside post game as anyone we will see this year.”
Flyers have new coach
Following a season in which the Little Falls girls basketball team graduated eight seniors who were major contributors to the team’s 11-15 season, they will regroup with young talent and a new coach.
Debra Yliniemi-Ahlin takes the helm for the Flyers this season. She will have fresh legs to work with this season, as the only returning starter from last year is Kendra Hilmerson.
Hillmerson scored 8 points in the Flyers’ 44-53 loss to St. Cloud Apollo Thursday night. Little Falls was led in scoring by Katie Hochsprung with 15 points.
“Since we graduated a big senior class, I expect all returning ball players from last year’s varsity and junior varsity squad to contribute,” Yliniemi-Ahlin said. “Last year’s junior varsity team lost only one game, so I expect to be very competitive in a tough Central Lakes Conference.”
While the new Flyer coach expects Fergus Falls to be a favorite for the conference title this season, she reserved the right to assess her team more formally over its first few games.
“I feel anything can happen,” Yliniemi-Ahlin said. “We will be a young team, but they all have great work ethic and love to win ball games. I see us finishing in the top half of a tough conference.”
Royals return many
While the absence of 1,000-point scorer Brooke Winscher will surely resonate early on this season, the Royalton girls basketball team will have plenty of returning leadership to turn to in 2007-08.
And that’s good news for first year head coach Jeff Schoenrock as he looks to improve the Royals’ 5-20 record from a year ago.
Juniors Breanna Krueger, Shelby Lies, Katerina Lenz and Jessica Justin will be leaders for a team that was considered young last season.
With a year of building chemistry under their belts, the junior class expects to establish themselves as an elite team in the Prairie conference this season.
“We have a young team without a senior,” Schoenrock said. “But we do have varsity experience. Our goal is to continue to get better as the year progresses.”
While the Royals expects Upsala to again be among top contenders for the conference title, Schoenrock likes Osakis as the favorite this season based on all the returning starters.
Upsala dropped its top two scorers from a year ago in 1,000-point scorers Bethany Burggraff and Kayla Tschida.
For that reason, teams like Royalton have a better chance to compete with the Cardinals this year.
Shoenrock expects his team to maintain ball control, and force turnovers rather than make them. If the Royals can accomplish that task he thinks they can achieve their goal from the outset-finish in the top half of the conference.
Cardinals mourn loss
Losing your two best scorers in any season is difficult for a team to handle.
The Upsala girls basketball team lost two of the most prolific scorers the school has seen in well over a decade.
Bethany Burggraff and Kayla Tschida each reached the 1,000-point milestone for the Cardinals last season, and then, both graduated.
“Not many girls or even boys reach (the 1,000-point) milestone,” Cardinals coach Paul Pelzer said at the end of the 2006-07 campaign. “Having two in one year is unheard of. I am very proud of both of them. They will be sadly missed on the Cardinals court next year.”
Upsala began its season against another Prairie Conference favorite-Osakis-Friday night (after this paper went to print).
Huskers enjoy depth
As teams wear down in the second half of games this season, the Holdingford basketball team will have a deep bench to call on in the clutch.
The Huskers graduated three starters from a year ago in center Amy Waletzko (9.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg), guard Brittany Stoermann (5.8 ppg, 1.8 spg) and guard Kayla Calgaro (2.4 ppg).
But in that loss the team plans to transition to more of a “run and gun” style of offense, head coach Joe Rosenberger said.
“Our team has good numbers and I hope to use that to spell other teams in the second half,” Rosenberger said.
The team finished last season 7-17 overall, and seventh in the Central Minnesota Conference.
The only returning Husker starters are seniors Katie Nelson and Danielle Ebnet and junior Marie Kierzek.
“I believe our team should finish somewhere in the middle of both the conference and section,” Rosenberger said. “We will have a very aggressive defense with a run and gun offense.”