The girls basketball season starts with a bunch of voids to be filled. A ton a talent including seven All-Conference picks graduated last year. Five of seven FCJ covered schools lost (multiple) high-profile, experienced players, including two all-time leading scorers.
The last county girls basketball team left standing last season were the Fillmore Central Falcons. In their first year under Levi Olstad, FC played it perfectly. They lost to all their main Section 1A foes (SG, R-P, Kingsland) in the regular season, only to beat them in the post-season. The Falcons won 1A East and gave state champion Goodhue a game for over a half. FC took home its second Section 1A Runner-Up trophy in three years. They finished 8-9 in the TRC, 17-13 overall. A stellar four-girl senior class graduated, one that included 1,000-point scorer Kendyl Bennett, once-in-a player Kenzie Broadwater (both All-TRC), Tayah Barnes, and Paige Bennett (both All-TRC HM). The four combined for 35.8 points, 18.4 rebounds, 9.5 assists, and 8.6 steals. Last year’s ancillary ingredients become this year’s leaders. FC has two key returning seniors in Grace Miller (5’5” G > 2.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG) and Alleigh Meyer (5’7” G/F > 1.4 PPG, 2.0 RPG). From the junior class are speedy Paige Donlinger (5’3” G > 4.5 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 1.0 SPG) and Madison Scheevel (5’4” G > 2.4 PPG, 1.3 RPG), the hero of last year’s post-season win over R-P. From the sophomore class is Emma Breitsprecher (5’10” F/G > 2.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG). Coach Olstad has three seniors (one exchange student), five juniors, and two sophomores on his roster. FC has M-C/Houston over the holidays. Their other non-con tilts are with Lanesboro, SG, L/P, GM, L-O, and Schaeffer Academy.
Last year’s SEC-East champions were the Mabel-Canton Cougars. Adam Wilder’s group went 11-3 in league, 20-8 overall. It was the Cougars’ first 20-win season since 2004-2005. M-C made it to Rochester, but were felled by Kingsland in a 1A East semifinal. Gone is the school’s all-time leading scorer, three-time All-SEC pick, Coranda Vickerman (now at Luther College). She was their top scorer (17.6 PPG) and rebounder (8.0 RPG). Also graduated is second leading scorer (10.5 PPG) and rebounder (5.6 RPG), All-SEC HM pick Courtney Graves. M-C, never known for its size, will have to play big given the losses of its two tallest players. Payton Danielson (5’3” sophomore G > 9.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.7 APG, 3.2 SPG, 37% three’s) has been up to the challenge. She’s the Cougars top returning scorer, a 2016 All-SEC Second Team pick. Lexi Thorson (5’5” junior G > 4.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.5 SPG) and Maddy Michels (5’6” junior F > 2.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG) are M-C’s other two returning starters. Kenidi McCabe (5’3” freshman G > 4.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG), Avery Arneson (5’4” senior G > 1.2 PPG, 2.0 RPG), and Miranda Cox (5’6” senior F) give Coach Wilder six key returnees. M-C has FC and Kingsland over the holidays. Their non-con schedule includes Medford, R-P, a border-battle game, Kee, Cannon Falls, Alden-Conger, W-K, and La Crescent.
Rushford-Peterson has a new gymnasium. The Lady Trojans will have four new starters take the floor this year too. Among Terry Pelzl’s graduations were All-TRC stand-outs Brianna Koop, the school’s all-time leading scorer (now at UW River Falls), Mikayla Crawford, and Savannah Skalet. The trio accounted for 45.4 points, 15.3 rebounds, 9.9 assists, and 9.6 steals. They led R-P in everything, helping the Trojans to another good season (12-5 in the TRC-East, 19-7 overall). After beating FC twice, Pelzl’s group fell to the Falcons in the 1A East semis. R-P’s sole returning starter is senior Nicole Blagsvedt (6’0” center > 4.2 PPG, 4.0 RPG). Mackenzie Eide (5’4” senior G > 1.4 PPG, 1.4 RPG), Kjersta Hinz (5’10” junior F > 1.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG), and Megan Oian (5’8” junior F > 1.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG) also played in at least 20 games last season. R-P has just the two seniors (above), five juniors, and five sophomores. They don’t play over the holidays. Non-conference opponents include Moose Lake, M-C, West Central (Border Battle in Decorah), Lanesboro, SG, L-O, Goodhue, Hope Lutheran, and Houston.
In Spring Valley, Kingsland starts the season on the wings of back-to-back 1A East Runner-Ups. The Knights went 10-8 in the TRC last season, 18-11 overall. They lost to FC in the 1A East title game. Jake Vetter takes a sabbatical as coach. Jay Webster steps in. Webster is familiar with the program. His daughter was one of eight senior graduations off last year’s team. That list also included (sometime) All-Conference picks, Kailey Link and Courtney Schmidt. The Knights graduated 38.7 points and 21.6 rebounds per game. The cupboard isn’t bare, as 2016 All-TRC pick Lauren Buchholtz is back for her fourth-year of varsity. A very good play-off run last year led the athletic 5’8” junior to lead Kingsland in scoring (10.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 1.9 APG). Lindsey Welch (5’11” F > 1.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG), Kori Kruegel (5’8” G > 2.1 PPG, 1.1 RPG), and Jocelyn Voeltz (5’5” G) are a trio of seniors with varsity experience who’ll be counted on much more this season. Alyx Rath (5’5” G) is a fourth senior on the squad, which also has six juniors, and two sophomores. Kingsland has M-C/Houston over the holidays. Other non-conference opponents include L-O (opener), a Border Battle foe, GM, BP, Randolph, and SG.
The one team that didn’t lose a ton is Houston. The Hurricanes, in their second year under Dale Moga, seem poised for a good season. They finished 6-8 in the SEC last year, 9-16 overall, falling to Kingsland in the 1A quarters. Team double-H played the top 1A teams (R-P, Kingsland, M-C, SG) tough, and will look for more than moral victories. They lost just two seniors and return their top two scorers and four girls who averaged five-plus boards. Heading the cast is last year’s leading scorer/rebounder, All-SEC pick Alyssa Rostad (13.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 2.8 SPG), a 5’5” junior forward. She three’s (hit 58 trifectas) and free’s (shot 77% from the line, making at least four freebies in a game 13 times). Rostad is joined by Jessica Kitching, last year’s second leading scorer (10.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 3.1 SPG). The 5’9” senior was All-SEC HM. Down low, Amber Chapel (5’10” senior C > 4.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG) and Jenny Albrecht (5’10” sophomore C/F > 2.6 PPG, 7.9 RPG) provide good rebounding. Becca Lee (5’6” senior G > 4.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.4 SPG) is scrappy. Toss in Becca Rostad (5’7” freshman G), Emma Geiwitz (5’9” freshman G), and Sarah Albrecht (5’7” senior F); Houston has eight returnees who played in at least 20 games a season ago. The ‘Canes have four seniors (all above), one junior (above), three sophomores, seven freshman, and three eighth graders out. They have FC/Kingsland over the holidays. Alden-Conger, Cannon Falls, La Crescent, Faribault B.A., Hope Lutheran W-K, Cleveland, Triton, and R-P are non-con opponents.
Chatfield has had a couple tough seasons in a row. The Gophers will look to head in a better direction. Brian Baum’s group went 4-14 in the TRC last year, 4-22 overall. They fell to Pine Island in the 1AA round of 16. Chatfield returns its top scorer, sharp-shooting Macy Pederson (5’4” senior G > 10 PPG, 51 made three’s at 39.2%, 1.9 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 1.2 APG), an All-TRC HM pick. Belle Berg (5’8” junior G > 4.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 1.6 APG) returns at the point. Megan Hopp (5’5” senior G > 3.2 PPG, 2.3 RPG), Britney Fretland (5’6’” senior G > 2.8 PPG, 1.8 RPG), and Shelby Isensee (6’0” junior C > 1.8 PPG, 2.4 RPG) are other returning full-timers. Grace Friederichs (5’2” G) is a fourth senior to go with five juniors and two sophomores. The Gophers head to Winona State for the holidays. Their non-con schedule includes Lourdes, the TRC/HVL Showdown, PI, Lake City, and Stewartville.
Lanesboro starts the year with a new coach. Football coach James Semmen takes over the girls program. He assisted last year and has a daughter on the squad. The Burros went 5-9 in the SEC, 8-17 overall a year ago. They won a pig-tail play-off game before falling to M-C in the 1A East quarters. The Burros graduated four starters including leading scorer, All-SEC HM pick Haley Polin (now at Viterbo). A fifth experienced player, Caroline Mayer, is out with a torn ACL. Lanesboro does get versatile Emily Snyder back. The 5’8” junior forward (4.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG) tore her ACL midway through last year. Lexie Johnson (5’5” junior G > 3.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG), Bailey Ruen (5’8” senior G), and Josie Semmen (5’5” senior G) also have experience. The Burros non-con schedule includes R-P, W-K, FC, Alden-Conger. They play L-O, GM, and G-E each twice (though only one game is ‘league’).
*TRC stats courtesy of Bill Bentson.