Fulda set to defend Class A title

FULDA -- Just like a fisherman, the Fulda Raiders girls' basketball team dropped their line a great distance from shore, then slowly reeled back as the season went along.

FULDA -- Just like a fisherman, the Fulda Raiders girls' basketball team dropped their line a great distance from shore, then slowly reeled back as the season went along.

"We don't put a lot of stuff in -- except for the Worthington game -- then we go back to the fundamentals," Fulda head coach Gregg Slaathaug said Monday as his Raiders were preparing for their second straight state tournament appearance at 8 p.m. Wednesday against Rushford-Peterson at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

The Raiders enter having won 16 of their last 18 games -- with their only defeats coming against Southwest Star Concept and Class AAA's Becker.

It was the loss to SSC that may have been one of the bigger turning points of the season, as the team had little time to sit and stew over the result. The Raiders went right back to work the next night against West Central, and then played Adrian two nights later. Both were victories, as have been 16 of the last 17.

"With the loss, everyone was down Friday night," Laura Kramer said of the SSC game. "But we knew right away we'd have to come back Saturday because we didn't want to lose again and have that on top of everything."


The Raiders enter the state tournament with their eyes firmly on the prize, having won each of their four sectional games by an average of nearly 22 points per game.

"We were on a mission last year," Slaathaug said. "We thought we could win it. We're really on a mission this year."

And to that credit, the Raiders have played a difficult schedule -- with such foes as Becker, Minneapolis South and Worthington as the out-of-class highlights. It has certainly helped get the team ready for what it will face.

"We wanted to play some real good teams and feel that tournament atmosphere," Slaathaug said. "The Becker game felt like a tournament game."

Being the defending state champion brings added pressure for the Raiders, but it isn't something the team has been unaccustomed to. As Kaitlyn Kramer put it, Fulda has been taking the best challenges from its foes longer than just the past season.

"We know we get everybody's best shot, but I think we got everybody's best shot last year," she said. "People are always going to come after us."

That will include, when facing Rushford-Peterson (22-7) Wednesday night, the flex offense. It is a system that calls on plenty of movement and screening in attempts to get a defender knocked off their assignment -- a system the Raiders have seen before.

"Our whole defense is based on defending the flex," Slaathaug said. "It's been awhile since we've been working on defending the flex."


On offense, Fulda is as balanced a team as any in their class, with Kaitlyn Kramer, Laura Kramer, Sarah Raddle and Chelsey Speckmeier among those leading at the start, while Amy Paulzine, Brooke Kramer and Mandy Gunderman helping out off the bench.

It is that balance that allows for any player to take the leading role in scoring, and not put too much on any individual player.

"Kaitlyn can go off for 35, 40 points, and we can win if Kaitlyn has nine," Slaathaug said. "We feel we have a lot of balance in scoring."

That balance will be tested by a R-P team that is making its first tournament appearance, winning eight of nine to get to Minneapolis. It is not a team without recognition, as the Trojans were ranked No. 8 in the final AP poll. Fulda, in comparison, is ranked second.

"We're just glad we got over that hump," Laura Kramer said, referring to Dawson-Boyd. "Now we have to get over this little hump."

Or, in the example of the fisherman, the three ripples that stand in the way of the Raiders and back-to-back championships.

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