A season ago was a down year for FCJ covered girls basketball teams. Only one of seven finished above five hundred. With the new one-bracket Section tournament systems, only one made Rochester for a play-off game. This year, four of seven Journal covered teams return at least three starters and two others return a 1,000-point scorer (each looking for the school’s all-time scoring marks). There is good room for optimism. Three new (tall) coaches take over; 6’2”Jake Dahl (Rushford-Peterson), 6’7” Josh Schreiber (Lanesboro), and 6’8” Steve Hauser (Kingsland). The Knights start their inaugural year in the SEC, making it a 13-team league with uneven divisions (five in the East, six in the West). Their departure leaves the TRC an even 12-team league (six and six).
The top Journal covered girls’team last season were the Houston Hurricanes. Dale Moga’s squad won its first ever SEC-East division title amidst its first ever winning season. Houston went 11-2 in conference and 22-5 overall. The campaign came to a screeching halt in the 1A round of 16 when the fifth seeded ‘Canes shot poorly and were downed by 13-seed Southland. A trio of starters graduated, All-SEC HM pick Amber Chapel, Jessica Kitching, and Rebecca Lee. Team double-H does return its top asset, leading scorer, 1,000-point scorer Alyssa Rostad. The 5’5” senior guard was All-SEC, averaging 18.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals, and 2.0 assists per game. The fifth-year player hit 80 threes (36%) and 106 free throws (77%). Houston’s girls’ scoring mark is well within Rostad’s range. She’ll get help from the ‘Canes other returning starter, Jenny Albrecht. The 5’10” junior mostly defended and rebounded last year (3.6 PPG, team-high 8.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 3.3 SPG). From there, key bench assets Becca Rostad (5’7” So. G > 6.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.7 SPG), Emma Geiwitz (5’9” So. G > 4.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.3 SPG), and Casey Porter (5’7” Jr. F) will see their rolls expand. No other returning ‘Cane played in 20-plus games. The elder Rostad is the team’s only senior. SEC-West contender GM (away) is the opener. Houston has the Decorah Border Battle (Kee) and two Holiday games (FC, Kingsland). The ‘Canes have SEC newbie Kingsland thrice (pitting two 1,000-point scorers against each other a trio of times). The non-conference schedule includes teams from three different conferences (Gopher, TRC, HVL). Faribault B.A., Triton, Maple River, and La Crescent are home non-cons, W-K, Byron, Cannon Falls, Kenyon-Wanamingo, and R-P on the road.
Kingsland was the only Journal covered team to make Rochester for a play-off game. The Knights went 9-9 in the TRC, 14-14 overall last year. They won a round of 16 game only to fall to L/P at Mayo Civic Center. Steve Hauser takes over as coach for year one in the SEC. He inherits a team that graduated three starters (Kori Kruegel, Lindsay Welch, Jocelyn Voeltz). He does return his top asset, top scorer, 1,000-point scorer Lauren Buchholtz. One of the TRC’s best will take on a new league. Buchholtz (5’9” Sr. G/F) enters her fifth year of varsity action. Her numbers last year were gaudy; 19.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 3.3 steals per game. The spectacular athlete is a two-time All-TRC pick. Kingsland’s girl’s scoring mark is within her reach. The Knights only other returning starter though is Ellie Buchholtz (5’8” So. G/F). Younger sis made All-TRC HM her first year on varsity (8.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.6 SPG). From there, only Megan Schultz (5’5” Sr. G > 2.6 PPG, 1.8 RPG) and Nora Jahn (5’8” Sr. F > 1.9 PPG, 3.1 RPG) are returning varsity full-timers. Victoria Hershberger (5’4” G) is a fourth senior on a squad devoid of juniors. The Knights will take on their first SEC basketball schedule, starting with a home toughie versus GM. They have the Decorah Border Battle and two holiday games (Southland, Houston). Other non-conference tilts are R-P, K-W, BP and St. Charles at home, Goodhue, L-A, Hayfield, Chatfield, and FC on the road.
Fillmore Central is the only Journal covered TRC team to return an All-TRC first teamer (Kingsland’s Buchholtz switched leagues). Senior guard Paige Donlinger is one of three key returning starters, one of seven key returnees for Levi Olstad’s Falcons. FC went 7-10 in the TRC last season, 11-17 overall. They won a play-off game but fell to GM in a 1A Round of 16, graduating just two seniors. Donlinger, a 2017 All-TRC pick, plays much bigger than she is, and is as fast as they come in the conference. The 5’3” guard, a fourth-year player, led FC in scoring and rebounding last season (9.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 2.1 SPG). She’ll get help from returning starters, third-year players All-TRC HM pick Emma Breitsprecher (5’8” Jr. G/F > 7.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.0 SPG) and Madison Scheevel (5’4” Sr. G > 6.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.4 SPG). The trio went 1-2-3 in scoring for the Falcons last year. Back also are last year’s top four reserves, Kassidy Broadwater (5’5” Jr. G > 3.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 APG, 2.1 SPG), Courtney Nelson (5’8” Sr. C > 4.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG), Kandace Sikkink (5’7” Jr. C > 3.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG), and K.J. Corson (5’2” So. G > 1.5 PPG). Ashlyn Simon (5’7” So. G), Madison Krage (5’6” So. F), and Kelly Ristau (6’2” So. C) also saw some action. FC isn’t big with Ristau the only player 5’10” or better. It has three seniors. The Falcons has non-con tilts versus SEC teams GM, Houston, M-C, L-O, Lanesboro, S.A., SG, and Kingsland, plus Hayfield. They open at home versus La Crescent.
Returning a deep group of athletes is Rushford-Peterson. The Trojans, after a great run of success, had a tough 2017-2018 campaign, going 0-17 in the TRC, 6-22 overall. New coach Jake Dahl, a former boys assistant (father of notable recent three-sport state participant Dawson Dahl) takes over a group that lost just two key players. The Trojans return six seniors, headed by leading scorer Lauren Lawston (12.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.2 SPG). The 5’8” forward was All-TRC HM last year. Megan Oian (5’7” F > 5.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG), Kjersta Hinz (5’11” F/C > 4.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG), Peyton Hoiness (5’6” G > 2.1 PPG), Kaitlyn Bieberdorf (5’7” F > 2.2 PPG), and Julissa Trejo (5’3” G) are the other five. Said group helped turn the volleyball team from sub .500 in 2017 to plus .500 in 2018. The addition of a seventh senior Abbey Hoegh (5’9” G/F), a transfer sit-out in 2017-2018, will have an impact. Alora Wilkemeyer (5’9” So. F), Ellie Dahl (5’9” Jr. F), and Kaylee Ruberg (5’7” Fr. F) also saw some action last year. Reducing turnovers and picking up the scoring are keys. Just a year removed from Brianna Koop, Mikayla Crawford, and Savannah Skalet combining for 45-plus points-per-game, R-P averaged just 40.2 points-per-game as a team last season, scoring under 40 in 18 of 28 contests. The Trojans have the Decorah Border Battle (South Winn), though no holiday games. Home non-conference tilts include Moose Lake, Schaeffer Academy, Cannon Falls, SG, Houston, and M-C. Road non-cons are Kingsland, L-O, and Lanesboro.
Returning the most starters of the Journal covered schools in Mabel-Canton. The Cougars went 6-7 in the SEC, 8-17 overall last year. They won a play-in play-off game but fell to Goodhue in the Section 1A Round of 16. Adam Wilder returns four starters, all of which have at least two years of varsity experience. Junior Payton Danielson (5’5” G) heads the cast. She was the Cougars’ top stat-person across the board in 2017-2018 (12.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.5 APG, 4.5 SPG). The speedster and shooter made the All-SEC 2nd team. Already in her fifth year of full-time varsity action, Danielson is closing in on 1,000 points. M-C’s two seniors, Lexi Thorson (5’6” G > 3.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.9 SPG) and Maddy Michels (5’7” F > 3.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG. 1.3 SPG), also return. Each has seen key minutes since the eighth grade. The fourth returning starter is sophomore Kenidi McCabe (5’5” G). The All-SEC HM pick gives M-C a second double-digit returning scorer (10.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.0 APG, 3.0 SPG). Jordyn Newgard (5’7” So. > 4.7 PPG, 2.1 RPG) and Lauren Wyffels (5’4” So. > 1.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG) are two other key returnees. The Cougars are athletes, but size is an issue, particularly with the loss of Avery Davis to injury volleyball season. Davis (5’9” junior F > 3.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG) would’ve been M-C’s tallest player. Depth is an issue, as the Cougars don’t have big numbers. M-C opens at L-O. They have the Decorah Border Battle (Riceville) and two holiday games (FC, Southland). Their pure home non-conference tilts are L-A and Kee. Road pure non-con games are with St. Charles, Medford, Decorah, La Crescent, and R-P. M-C also plays SEC-West schools GM and L-O each twice (one conference, one non-conference). Nine of M-C’s last ten games (and 16 of 26) are on the road.
Chatfield begins the season in an intricate position they weren’t in in their hay-day a few years ago. They are short on experienced guards. Brian Baum’s group went 7-11 in the TRC, 8-17 overall last year. The Gophers fell to Lourdes in the 1AA Round of 16. They went upward from their 2016 win totals. Chatfield graduated its only All-TRC player (Macy Pederson). Top returning scorer (9.1 PPG), the team’s only would be experienced guard, All-TRC HM pick Belle Berg (5’8” Sr.), is not out (pry to focus on softball). It leaves the Gophers, who at one point had guards Kirsten Keefe, Maddy Larrabee, Megan LaPlante, Maddie Talamantes, and Sydney Gould all excelling on the same team (2014-2015), very short on varsity credentialed ball-handlers. The front-court should be fine, featuring top returning scorer, All-TRC HM pick Alanna Goetzinger (5’11” Sr. C > 8.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG), Shelby Isensee (5’10” Sr. F > 5.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.1 SPG), and Silja Erickson (5’9” Jr. F > 5.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG). The latter two each missed time to injury last year. Sarah Baum (5’8” Sr. F) and Kaci Goldsmith (5’7” Sr. F) played a bit in 2017-2018. Thus, Chatfield is the most formidable Journal covered team on the front line. The Gophers open at W-K. They have the WSU Holiday Tourney (Lanesboro, L-A). Home non-con tilts are with Triton, Pine Island, and Kingsland, roadies with Lake City, Z-M, Blooming Prairie, Stewartville, and Cannon Falls. Of note, Coach Baum is the only girls’ coach to span the entirety of the Fillmore County Journal Sports (2010 to present).
The Lanesboro Burros will look to move up in the standings. Team orange and black went 2-11 in the SEC last year, 5-20 overall. They got a play-off win over Faribault B.A., but fell to L/P in the Section 1A Round of 16. Josh Schreiber takes over the coaching position. Schreiber’s wife Julie has been Lanesboro’s volleyball coach while eldest daughter Joelie was a stand-out volleyball player. The group he inherits includes three returning starters, all of which averaged over seven points per game a season ago. Seniors Lexie Johnson (5’7” G/F > 8.0 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.1 APG, 2.2 SPG) and All-SEC HM pick Emily Snyder (5’9” F > 7.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 2.1 SPG), junior Payton Benson (5’5” G > 7.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.7 SPG) give Lanesboro a trio of capable players. Sophia Simes (5’6” Jr. F > 2.0 PPG, 2.2 RPG) is a fourth returning full-timer while Sophie Pieper (5’8” Jr. C) and Alida Berg (5’6” Jr. G) played in most games last year. The Burros have the Decorah Border Battle (Central Elkader) and WSU Holiday tourney games (L-A, Chatfield). They have a home boys/girls doubleheader with Christian Life Academy, other pure home non-con tilts with St. Charles and R-P. They have road pure non-con games with FC and W-K. The Burros also play SEC-West schools L/P and Schaeffer each twice (one conference, one non-conference).