With tall returning lineup, Quasars look to repeat as Red Rock Conference champions
WORTHINGTON -- After going 17-0 in league play a year ago, the Southwest Star Concept Quasars return to the hardwood as the defending Red Rock Conference girls' basketball champions.
Two-time defending Class A state champion Fulda was the conference runner-up at 16-1, while Edgerton (13-4), Adrian (12-5) and Murray County Central (10-7) each registered double-digit win totals to finish third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Red Rock Central also finished in the upper half of the standings with a 9-8 record, while Ellsworth was seventh with an 8-9 mark.
Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin (6-11) finished eighth, while Hills-Beaver Creek and Southwest Christian each completed the season at 4-13. Round Lake-Brewster was 3-14, and Westbrook-Walnut Grove was 0-17.
Here is a look at this year's teams, listed in order of their 2006-2007 conference finish with their overall record from last season in parenthesis:
SSC Quasars (23-4)
With six players standing five feet nine inches tall or higher, the Southwest Star Concept Quasars will feature one of the biggest and most experienced frontcourts in the area.
However, the majority of SSC's backcourt players -- Shannon Hussong, Chelsey Knutson and Whitney Pelzel, along with all-around performer Linnea Henkels -- graduated last spring, leaving some question marks for head coach Les Knutson.
"Our experience and our height will be positive factors for us," Knutson said. "We will need to develop our perimeter depth as the season progresses to become a better all-around team."
Returning to lead SSC are seniors Brooke DeWall (5-11 forward), Adri Rasche (6-0 center), Syd Place (5-10 guard) Michelle Olsem (5-9 center), Breanna Rients (5-7 guard) and Sarah Frodermann (5-7 forward).
Freshman Katey Granstra (6-1) will likely play a key role for the Quasars, while juniors Kelsey Beyer (5-3 guard), Kortney Baumann (5-5 guard), Betsy Voehl (5-5 guard), Michaela Rasche (5-6 forward) and Jenna Leopold (5-6 forward) could also provide a spark off the bench.
"We will likely lean on our six seniors to begin the season," Knutson said. "We will have good inside depth and will seek contributions from many other girls."
Fulda Raiders (30-3)
After winning back-to-back Class A state championships, the Fulda Raiders bring back three veterans and a stable of prospects heading into the new season.
While the departure of Kaitlyn Kramer, Laura Kramer, Sarah Raddle and Chelsey Speckmeier leaves some holes to fill for the Raiders, senior point guard Sam Raddle (5-7) returns to the court to lead head coach Gregg Slaathaug's squad.
Senior forward Brooke Kuehne (5-8) and junior center Amy Paulzine (5-9) each played a key role for the Raiders a year ago, and will be counted on even more this winter.
"With all due respect to the great players that played for us last year, we have the one player we need back to lead this young and very talented team in Sam," Slaathaug said. "I really like our senior leadership in practice with Sam and Brooke, who both work extremely hard all of the time."
Slaathaug lists junior Erica Drealan (5-8 forward), sophomores Mari Holinka (5-10 forward), Lane Gehl (5-8 guard) and Krissa Kramer (5-9 forward), freshman Brittany Hulstein (5-8 guard) and eighth-grader Courtney Hulstein (5-7 guard) as players who will also contribute this season.
"I love the mix we have from all positions," Slaathaug said. "We will always have four, and sometimes five, girls on the floor who are true threats to score the basketball."
Edgerton Flying Dutchmen (18-7)
With no seniors on the nine-player roster, the Edgerton Flying Dutchmen will feature a young team after coming off an 18-7 season a year ago.
Even with the youth on the team, Edgerton brings back quite a bit of experience in junior guard Katie Hadler (5-7) and sophomores Alyson Drooger (5-11 forward) and Hailey Van Kley (5-6 guard).
"We hope to be really aggressive and use some of our quickness to make things happen," head coach Andrew Fleischman said. "We're going to need some girls to step up and fill some new roles."
Edgerton loses three key seniors from a year ago in Amy Kallemeyn, Heather Van Kley and Alexa Vanden Bosch, but the Flying Dutchmen have several players ready to step in and make an impact.
Junior point guard Samantha Vanden Bosch (5-4) and sophomore center Kelsey Wolthuizen (5-10) will round out the early-season starting lineup along with Hadler, Drooger and Van Kley.
Sophomores Emily Sluis (5-9 forward), Macy Butson (5-5 guard) and Ashley Bostic (5-8 forward) will provide depth off the bench, as will junior guard Shelby Lingen (5-5).
Adrian Dragons (16-9)
With a pair of junior guards and a senior post to build around, the Adrian Dragons will be striving for another upper-half finish in the conference.
Fresh off leading the Dragon football team to the Prep Bowl, veteran head coach Randy Strand welcomes back junior guards Sam Lynn (5-6) and Erica Thier (5-9), along with senior post Bridget Block (5-10), to the starting line-up.
While Adrian did lose Emily Thier, Natalie Lynn and Kelsey Tjepkes to graduation, the Dragons have several capable players ready to step into larger roles.
Senior wing Melissa Weidert (5-8) and juniors Katy Slater (5-9 post) and Mary Loosbrock (5-6 wing) will need to provide quality minutes.
Strand lists sophomore guard Ashley Thier (5-7) and freshman post Karli Meyer (5-8) as potential prospects ready to contribute this season.
MCC Rebels (13-14)
Eight seniors graduated for Murray County Central, so Rebel fans will see some new faces on the court this year.
However, a returning player everyone is sure to know is sophomore center Emily Bose (6-1), who head coach Tom Pryor and the Rebels will likely build around.
Maddy Robinson (5-6 guard) is the team's lone senior, while Kate Robinson (5-9 guard), Heather Nepp (5-8 guard), Laura York (5-7 guard) and Sam Leebens (5-8 guard) are the juniors on the roster.
Sophomores Alyssa Schmidt (5-4 guard) and Kasey Schreiber (5-10 center), along with Bose, are the top players in the lower two grades for MCC.
RRC Falcons (13-13)
Competitiveness and cohesiveness are two strengths that head coach Jeff Shaner sees with this year's edition of the Red Rock Central Falcons.
"These girls have played together for a long time, so they have a feel for what each other is going to do," Shaner said. "Plus, they are very competitive in both games and practices."
Ashley Neperman, Britta Engen and Danielle Trapp have graduated, but the Falcons bring back multiple contributors from a year ago.
Headlining the list is junior point guard Krystle Sell (5-5) and senior wings Shannon Altermatt (5-6) and Kelly Shaner (5-6).
Junior posts Thea Engen (5-11) and Abby Furth (5-11) appear to be the Falcons' go-to players inside, while forwards Sarah DeCock (5-8 senior) and Emily Neperman (5-6 junior) will see a lot of action, as well.
Ellsworth Panthers (13-11)
Bringing back all but two players from a year ago, the Ellsworth Panthers will look to break into the upper half of the league this season.
Amanda Connors and Laura Timmer were the team's seniors last year, so the majority of Ellsworth's team is back intact for this winter.
Senior forward Brooke Kramer (5-8) and sophomore guard Brooke Kix (5-7) return as the team leaders, while junior guard Rayna Sandoval (5-3) will see extended minutes.
Sophomores Leah Timmer (5-8 forward), Darian Herman (5-8 forward) and Courtney Dreesen (5-4 guard) will contribute.
Head coach Justin Hendricks also has a freshman and two eighth-graders on his roster who may work their way into the rotation as the season progresses.
ML/B-O Wolverines (9-16)
Larry Hempeck takes over the head-coaching duties for the Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin Wolverines, who lose four valuable players in Lacey Janzen, Kaysee Nesmoe, Emily Harrington and Lynsey Haglund.
ML/B-O returns a pair of seniors who saw a lot of action last season, as guard Courtney Anderson (5-3) and forward Kelly Hempeck (5-9) will look to lead the Wolverines.
Senior guards Tasha Sipaseut (5-4) and Cassie Baerg (5-2) will also contribute, while seven juniors could give the Wolverines a wealth of depth.
Nicole Clarke (5-10), Kara Thiessen (5-9), Michelle Dirks (5-9), Megan Svalland (5-9) and Brittany Wenner (5-9) are junior posts who could help inside, while Hannah Hildebrandt (5-4) and Tisha Sipaseut (5-4) are junior guards who may contribute on the perimeter.
H-BC Patriots (7-19)
Hills-Beaver Creek will have a young team this season, as head coach Jason Blosmo has just three seniors and eight freshmen listed on his roster.
The Patriots will be without Kerri Fransman, Amanda Tilstra, Chelsi Fink and Ashley Hoyme this season due to graduation, so a new wave of players will get a chance to play.
Returning for the Patriots are seniors Jochelyn Bucher, Ashley Bucher and Brittany Helgeson.
Jayme Plimpton, Emily Kruger, Brooke Tilstra, Santanna Wysong, Taylor Vaughn, Natalie Stueven, Heather Kerner and Alaina Van Westen are the freshmen Blosmo will work with, as no juniors or sophomores will be playing.
SWC Eagles (5-19)
With nearly all of their players coming back, the Southwest Christian Eagles will feature size and physical strength under new head coach Denise Nerem.
Junior forward Brianna Spronk (5-11) and sophomore center Kara Van Dyke (6-1) return to the Eagles' frontcourt, while senior guard Courtney De Kam (5-6) brings veteran leadership to the backcourt.
Sophomores Jada Vander Veen (6-1) and Jenni Vander Veen (6-0) will provide depth in the post, while senior Amber Van't Hof (5-5) and juniors Angie Vermeer (5-11) and Abby Hanenburg (5-8) will also contribute as guards.
"We will be a tall and physical team," Nerem said. "This is a fantastic bunch of girls who enjoy each other and the game of basketball."
RL-B Raiders (6-18)
New head coach Neil Robinson sees the Round Lake-Brewster Raiders as one of the league's deepest teams, with potentially more than nine players contributing night in and night out.
"We are a very balanced and experienced team this year," Robinson said. "We're nine players deep with some talented up-and-coming sophomores to assist."
RL-B loses guards Kelli Correll and Rachel Wilson to graduation, but six letterwinners return to give Robinson a solid nucleus to work with.
Senior guards Krystle Doeden (5-7) and Sarah Schmitz (5-9) are two veterans who will be counted heavily on.
Seniors Leah Riley (5-7 forward), Gabby Cross (5-10 post), Kasey McNab (5-6 forward) and Beth Moshier (5-7 guard) will also see a lot of action, with juniors Katy Johnson (post), April Wallace (guard) and Chelsea Meyer (guard) providing the kind of depth Robinson likes to see.
"A different player has the potential to rise up and lead us in every game," Robinson said. "If we can gel together as a team and get solid senior leadership, we will be able to compete in every contest."
W-WG Chargers (2-22)
Team cohesiveness and a better understanding of the game are two keys that head coach Maury Kuehl hopes will help the Westbrook-Walnut Grove Chargers continue their improvement.
A trio of starters return for the Chargers, with junior center Audra Schmidt (6-1) headlining the list.
Seniors Jenny Hoffman (5-6 point guard) and Erin Vosberg (5-10 forward) will also provide steady play for the Chargers, who lose Denise Tietz and Stephanie Comnick from last season.
Juniors Lacey Hoffman (5-5 guard) and Kassandra Jarmer (5-8 forward) will see expanded roles for W-WG, as will sophomore guard Kylie Erickson (5-8).
"Our overall team depth is a concern, and we need to take better care of the basketball," Kuehl said. "This team has a great attitude and energy for the game, and we hope to improve in all phases of the game."
T-M-B Panthers (8-17)
Five seniors will head up the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton roster, as head coach Ryan Kruse will look to help the Panthers improve on their 8-17 overall record from a year ago.
Mallory Fultz (5-11 post), Lindsey Daniels (5-9 forward), Molly Miller (5-9 forward), Michelle Lanoue (5-7 guard) and Jen Vroman (5-6 guard) are the team's seniors, while Roxy Ryan (5-6 guard) and Bridgit Kirsh (5-5 guard) are the two juniors.
While those seven make up the nucleus of the team, T-M-B could also see contributions from sophomores Shea Lanoue (5-7 guard) and M'hesi Haugen (5-5 guard).