WAPITI GIRLS GEAR UP FOR NEW SEASON
By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
Defending district champion Imbler will start five seniors, and coach Dale Wagner could not be any happier.
"I smile," he said.
For the last two seasons, the Panthers have started only one senior.
This season's starting five consist of all-league first-teamer Tiffany Rasmussen, all-league second-teamer Emily Correll, Liz Woody, Amy Clerget and Leanne Foster, an all-league second-teamer at Elgin last season.
Foster fills the spot vacated by the graduation of all-league honorable mention Meaghan Campbell.
The remaining varsity players are senior Rachel Lowe, juniors Hannah Hall, Penny Cline and Kayla Ritter, and freshman Mandy Griffin.
Wagner said the talent level and athleticism on the team is fantastic.
"We have a good team," he said. "Good strong bench."
The Panthers (21-8 overall, 11-3 Wapiti League) lost in the consolation semifinals last season at state and know what they want to accomplish this season.
"(We want to) win league," Wagner said. "Win district. Go to state."
The Panthers will host Weston-McEwen Dec. 3 for their first preseason contest.
Coach Wayne Herron has an interesting mix of players a couple of starters from this fall's state champion volleyball and girls cross country teams and a couple who were not involved in fall sports. He hopes this diverse group will come together.
"That's fantastic to have girls that understand about working hard and ... what it takes to win and be competitive," he said.
The Bobcats return three starters in all-league first-teamer senior post Jana Brotherton, all-league second-teamer junior wing Kallin Prince and junior point guard Lena Weitlauf.
Other returnees are senior wing Ammi Kucera, senior post Rosa Goodman and junior wing Shannon Mitchell. Rounding out the team are sophomore post April Savely, junior post Ashley Sharratt, sophomore wing Kara Baxter, sophomore post/wing Sandra Meredith, freshman Chelsea Herron and senior post/wing Christie Pierce.
Herron said he notices during practices that the team understands the system, and he is able to move along at a quicker pace than last season when he returned for his first year back as coach. He coached from 1988-1993.
"We have the competitive spirit (and) competitiveness to play good tenacious defense," he said.
The Bobcats (8-14, 6-8) did not get to district last season but are determined to make it this season.
"Our first priority is play well enough, compete well enough to make it to the district tournament," Herron said.
Union kicks off its preseason with the Lions Club tournament Dec. 6-7 in Union.
Youth describes Enterprise.
"Well, our first goal is to see if we get through preseason," coach Mike Crawford said, "know how to play together and become another Enterprise team that's reasonably formidable. We have some work to do right now."
Enterprise (21-7, 13-1) wrapped up the league title and finished seventh at state last season. But, all-league and all-state first-teamer Ashley Anderson and all-league second-teamer Kazzie Dawson graduated off that strong, senior-heavy team, along with Michelle Gardner, Justinn Christensen, Denette Harvey, Cami Conrad and Jennifer Williams.
One returning starter is back in all-league second-teamer senior wing Lacey Nobles.
The remaining players with varsity experience are sophomore point guard Jessie Morgan and sophomore post Kallie Hadden.
The rest of the team consists of juniors post Caitlin Baird, guard Jennifer McCready, guard Stefanie McCready and post Jacinda Mitchell, sophomore guards Kayla Stoffel, Kayla Miller and Chelcee Noland.
"I think we have reasonable athleticism and youth," Crawford said.
Crawford said has depth when he goes to the bench.
"There isn't an overwhelming group that is going to stand out beyond the others," he said.
Enterprise will travel to the Ione tournament Dec. 6 to begin its season.
Although the Huskies are young and inexperienced, coach Randy McKone said the team will come out and compete hard every night.
"They are a good bunch of kids," he said. "They work extremely hard."
The Huskies lost four starters to graduation in all-league first-teamer Ashley Rysdam, all-league second-teamer DeLeah Wiles, honorable mention Kristin Schumacher and Kristi Case. Junior forward Amber Looslie and senior guard Kim McCrae return with varsity experience.
Other players are senior guards Lacie Heighes and Rose Darrow, junior guard Haily Wiles, junior post Tiffany Fincher, sophomore post Josie Cross, junior guards Ashley Hogan and Krista Lampkins, freshman post Brittany Beetle and freshman forward Delia Darrow.
The Huskies (11-11, 7-7) made it to district last year, and again, they look to make district again and compete for a chance at state, McKone said.
"I think we might surprise some people this year," he said.
Elgin opens preseason play at home against Helix Dec. 6.
Coach Wendy McDaniel said the Eagles have a "nice blend of talents."
She said the experienced seniors, strong juniors, strong and fast sophomores and scrappy freshmen cause excitement.
"I'm just real excited," she said. "The girls have been working hard. We're changing up our offense quite a bit this year."
Returning varsity players are junior posts Haddie Carpenter and Anna Yost, and senior guards Mandi Moncrief, Licia Miller, Katie Couch and Heather Marshall. The sophomores are guard Denae Micka, post/wing Cierra Jones and post/wing Beth McClaran.
"We got a lot of speed on our team," McDaniel said. "Our height gives us that advantage, too."
McDaniel said the Eagles (4-17, 2-12) are looking to improve on last year's start.
"The kids want a taste of district," McDaniel said.
The Eagles will host Riverside Dec. 6 for their first preseason game.