Quasars lead host of teams challenging for Red Rock Conference title
OKABENA -- Featuring excellent athleticism, experience and depth, the Southwest Star Concept girls' basketball team is looking to maintain the success it has enjoyed over the past two seasons, when the Quasars went a combined 38-10.
Losing just two seniors (Whitney Place and Cali Mischke) from last year's 16-7 team, the Quasars once again appear to have the makings for a banner season under head coach Les Knutson, who is in his 31st season in charge of the Heron Lake-Okabena system.
Senior Linnea Henkels and junior Brooke DeWall were All-Red Rock Conference performers a year ago and return to lead the team again. However, Henkels won't see action until sometime in January, as she is currently sidelined with a broken leg.
Also back for SSC are seniors Shannon Hussong, Chelsey Knutson and Whitney Pelzel, and juniors Adri Rasche and Sydney Place.
Hussong, Knutson, Pelzel and Place will contribute as perimeter players, while Rasche will be a force in the middle for the Quasars.
Also expected to see time for the Quasars are seniors Kris Beyer and Darnella Stenzel, and juniors Breanna Rients, Michelle Olsem, Chelsey Cranston and Sarah Frodermann.
Bringing back good size and quickness, the Edgerton Flying Dutchmen are looking to have a breakout season under second-year head coach Andrew Fleischman.
Kelly Vanderstoep has departed, but Edgerton -- which was 12-13 last year -- brings back good talent and experience all over the court.
Senior posts Amy Kallemeyn and Heather Van Kley both stand over six feet tall, giving Edgerton good size down low.
Kallemeyn averaged 26.8 points and 13.2 rebounds per game a year ago, and is headed to North Dakota State on a scholarship next year.
Senior Alexa Vanden Bosch is back at point guard, while sophomore Katie Hadler and freshman Alyson Drooger are projected to help the Flying Dutchmen on the outside.
Providing depth will be senior Maricia Pick, sophomore Samantha Vanden Bosch and freshmen Hailey Van Kley and Kelsey Wolthuizen.
Bringing back a host of players with ample court experience, the Adrian Dragons will be seeking to put together a big season under 22nd-year head coach Randy Strand.
Brittany Bullerman and Jolene Reisdorfer are the only players to graduate off last year's 13-13 squad, giving the Dragons plenty of optimism for a successful campaign this winter.
Seniors Emily Thier, Natalie Lynn and Kelsey Tjepkes are back, as are juniors Bridget Block, Melissa Weidert and Kelsey Wiertsema.
Thier, Lynn, Weidert and Wiertsema will be perimeter players for the Dragons, while Tjepkes and Block will work on the inside.
Sophomores Sam Lynn, Erica Thier and Katlin Wiertsema will be counted on for solid play, as will fellow classmates Katy Slater and Mary Loosbrock.
Lynn was the Dragons' leading scorer a year ago, and returns to run the show at point guard. Thier and Loosbrock will see time at guard, while Wiertsema and Slater are posts.
Murray County Central
Despite losing five key seniors from a year ago, the Murray County Central Rebels appear to have the makeup of a contender.
Gone off last year's 22-5 team are Rachel Christiansen, Darielle Gengler, Emily Counter, Jenny Starken and Emmalee Anderson.
However, MCC returns experience on the inside and outside, with seniors Laura Beers, Janeane Robinson and Caitlyn Petersen leading the perimeter players.
Freshman Emily Bose returns on the inside, as do seniors Brooke Manderscheid and Renee Felber for first-year head coach Tom Pryor.
Third-year head coach Jon Holger loses three players to graduation, but he is optimistic this year's Round Lake-Brewster Raiders can be deeper and quicker than they were a year ago.
Molly Eichenberger, Amanda Evans and Kelly Weinandt are gone off last year's 11-13 squad, but the Raiders bring back three players who saw a lot of action a year ago.
Seniors Kelli Correll and Rachel Wilson return to the backcourt with good quickness and athleticism, and junior Sarah Schmitz brings back some versatility as a wing.
Juniors Leah Riley and Elly Schmitz will see time in the post, while junior Krystle Doeden is projected to see a lot of duty as the team's point guard.
With four other juniors on the squad, Holger feels his team can be deeper than in past years, and hopes the overall team quickness can be an asset.
Red Rock Central
Seventh-year head coach Jeff Shaner's Red Rock Central Falcons bring back experience and talent, as they seek to better last winter's 9-16 record.
Gone off last year's squad are Jessica Smith, Ashley Anderson, Sarah Huls, Kristin Huls and Karie Shaner.
Leading the Falcons this year will be seniors Ashley Neperman, Danielle Trapp and Britta Engen, junior Kelly Shaner and sophomore point guard Krystle Sell.
Juniors Sarah DeCock and Shannon Altermatt, and sophomores Thea Engen, Abby Furth and Emily Neperman are among the other prospects for RRC.
Competing in the Red Rock Conference for the first time, the Ellsworth Panthers will be looking to remain competitive under first-year head coach Justin Hendricks.
Gone of last year's 10-12 squad are graduates Amy Tiesler, Rachel Kvaale and Rosie Lewis. However, the Panthers return plenty of experience and talent to the court.
Seniors Amanda Connors, Mya Mann and Laura Timmer are back, as are junior Brooke Kramer, sophomore Rayna Sandoval and freshman Brooke Kix.
Replacing seven key seniors will be a tough task for fourth-year head coach Cal Hoekstra and the Southwest Christian Eagles.
The Eagles were 17-7 last winter, but Jenna Snyder, Darci Vander Woude, Katie Vis, Jennifer Lubben, Kayla Kreun, Tiffany Van't Hof and Rebecca Schelhaas all received diplomas last spring.
Also not on this year's squad is junior Kelsey Van Dyke, leaving the Eagles -- who don't have any seniors on the roster -- pretty inexperienced.
Juniors Courtney DeKam, Amber Van't Hof, April Reitsma and Emily Prins are expected to lead the Eagles this year.
Sophomores Angie Vermeer and Brianna Spronk should also see some action, as well as freshmen Jenni Vander Veen and Jada Vander Veen.
Second-year head coach Jason Blosmo brings back plenty of quickness, and the Hills-Beaver Creek Patriots will seek to improve off of last year's 6-20 campaign.
Stacy Bush and Kari Roozenboom are gone, but the Patriots have some experience returning -- especially on the perimeter.
Seniors Kerri Fransman, Amanda Tilstra and Chelsi Fink are each capable of scoring from the outside, while senior Ashley Hoyme will be a force in the paint.
Juniors Brittany Helgeson, Ashley Bucher and Jocelyn Bucher are among the other Patriots expected to contribute.
Losing all five starters from a year ago, the Westbrook-Walnut Grove Chargers will be looking for some new blood to step up and make things happen for second-year head coach Brittany Schneider.
Jonna Maas, Abby Knott, Jessica Olsem and Jenn Olsem all graduated off last year's 3-18 club, and junior Malori Paplow transferred to Windom.
A trio of players -- seniors Stephanie Comnick and Denise Tietz, and sophomore Audra Schmidt -- provided solid play off the bench last year and will be counted on for more production this winter.
Senior Andrea Hass, and juniors Jenny Hoffman and Erin Vosberg will be joined by junior Whitney Frank and sophomore Kassandra Jarmer to give the Chargers good quickness and athleticism.
Bringing back all but three players, the Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin Wolverines are striving for improvement under second-year head coach Dave Bucklin.
Amy Sawatzky, Brittany Harder and Heather Herrig have graduated, but the Wolverines bring back some talented players from last year's 10-14 club.
Headlining that list are seniors Lacey Janzen, Lynsey Haglund, Emily Harrington and Kaysee Nesmoe.
Janzen and Nesmoe are post players, while Haglund and Harrington are guards.
Also expected to contribute are juniors Kelly Hempeck and Courtney Anderson, as well as some other underclassmen.