2012-13 Valley Conference Girls Basketball Preview
November 22, 2012By Todd VanderLoop of Stevens Point Area Senior High
2012-13 Valley Conference Girls Basketball Preview
Posted by CWS Admin on 19 Nov 2012 / 0 Comment
By Brian Kalish
November 19, 2012
Stevens Point– The balance of power in girls basketball in the Wisconsin Valley Conference took a dramatic turn last year when Stevens Point claimed the conference title with a tidy 11-1 record, holding off Marshfield down the stretch. Marshfield finished second in the WVC at 10-2, followed by Wisconsin Rapids at 7-5.
SPASH, Rapids and Marshfield benefitted greatly last year from senior leadership. The Panthers’ Morgan Cebula and Lauren Thompson, among others, provided a significant offensive punch. Marshfield’s Taylor Varsho was not only the best offensive player in the conference, she may have been one of the best offensive players in the entire state. Rapids’ Hailey Frank and Nicole Slovensky were both potent weapons for Wisconsin Rapids.
How each team fills the void left by departed seniors will go a long way toward determining who will come out on top in 2012-13.
Here’s a look at this year’s WVC teams:
2011-12 record 11-1 WVC; 21-3 overall
Watching the Panthers play in 2011-12, SPASH had the feel of a “team of destiny.” Few would have been surprised if they had made it all the way to state. However, the Panthers’ season was cut short by Appleton North early in the WIAA tournament. SPASH won the conference title, due in large part to an overtime win over Marshfield in the latter stages of the season.
SPASH leaned on Morgan Cebula last year for a lift both offensively and defensively. Cebula’s size and aggressive play in the paint will be difficult to replace.
“The senior class last year was very important to the success we had,” head coach David Hauser said. ”They played like veterans at practice and really made efforts to make sure our team stayed focused.”
Expectations will be sky high for senior forward Heather Woyak this year. Woyak led the Panthers in scoring in 2011-12 with a 9.3ppg average. She is an excellent ball handler, particularly for someone with her height. She can score from beyond the arc or drive to the hoop and is better suited to slashing than posting up inside. It might come as a surprise to some that Woyak led the conference last year in rebounds with 87, a 7.3 per game average in conference play.
Woyak will be joined by Nicki Hauser and Taylor Smola, both fundamentally sound players who are very good shooters. McKenzie Taggatz is a spark plug on offense and gives opposing players fits with her quickness on defense.
Coach Hauser notes that Bryana Reisenauer and Haley Kolbeck are on varsity for their third year in a row and will play significant roles.
“Our defense is going to have to be very good,” Hauser said. ”The Valley is loaded with a lot of talent again this year. We are going to need consistent scoring from all five spots on the floor. We have to win the rebound battle and get to the free throw line and shoot a better percentage.”
2011-12 record: 10-2 WVC ; 20-6 overall
Marshfield’s Taylor Varsho was an electric player, lighting up WVC opponents for a conference-leading 18ppg average. Tigers’ head coach Heidi Michaelis knows that replacing Varsho will be a tough proposition.
“Losing Taylor is huge and I think it will be hard to fill those shoes and for sure not with one person,” Michaelis said.
Senior Tiffany Stargardt was perhaps overshadowed by her superstar teammate last year, but figures to take the reigns as a leader this year for Marshfield.
“Tiffany is a tremendous athlete who does all the tough stuff for a coach with rebounding, defending the other team’s best player and scoring points for us,” Michaelis said.
Michaelis feels that her team’s defense will be a strength.
“As always we will hang our hat on defending both in the half court as well as the full court,” Michaelis said. ”Defense is the key. Secondly we need to value that ball and rebound. We talk about rebounding to run and we will have to to be successful.”
2011-12 record: 7-5 WVC ; 14-9 overall
Rapids’ 7-5 conference record last year was a bit of a head scratcher. The Red Raiders figured to be in the thick of things, challenging for the conference title with offensive stars Hailee Frank and Nicole Slovensky leading the way. Rapids got off to a fast start before running into some trouble mid season against the likes of SPASH, Marshfield and Merrill. Rapids did, however, flex its muscle, defeating Marshfield in their second meeting and pushing SPASH to the brink on February 10.
“We have big shoes to fill,” said Rapids’ head coach Dan Hancock. ”This year’s team will have to rely on our height advantage.”
Twin towers Allie Paitel and Shelby Steinke figure to lead Rapids offensively and will undoubtedly cause match up problems for opposing teams. Steinke led the conference with a .620 shooting percentage last year. Maisie Langholff is a streaky shooter who, once she gets hot, is virtually unstoppable.
Look for Rapids to employ a ball-control style of offense. That style of play can be frustrating for teams who like to force the issue and play at a breakneck pace. Wisconsin Rapids might not have the glossy shine they had last year, but they are a team that no one in the conference should take lightly.
2011-12 record: 5-7 WVC ; 14-11 overall
Merrill fought to a 5-7 conference record last year, due in large part to the play of Renee Sladek. Sladek led the Bluejays with a 15.7ppg average, good for second in the conference. Sladek was second in the conference in rebounding and sixth in field goal percentage (.446).
The bad news for Valley teams is that Sladek is only a junior this year.
“Sladek led our team last year in scoring, rebounds, assists, and blocks,” said Merrill head coach Melissa Yuska. ”She already has a Division 1 collegiate basketball scholarship offer and has several other top programs interested. She is a gamer, who can play any spot on the floor and is an outstanding leader on and off the court. She can play inside or out and has the range to hit the three. She is also a quick defender who can use her strength and speed to create problems for other teams.”
Yuska said the return of Dawn Leland, Brianna LaMonica and Reegan Byer will help take some of the pressure off of Sladek.
“We have to be aggressive,” Yuska said. “We need to use our athleticism on the court, as that is a big strength for us. Consistency is key for us as well. We will need to be creative offensively as teams will focus on Renee and we will need to have other kids step up and score, too.”
2011-12 record: 5-7 WVC ; 10-13 overall
Evergreens’ senior Brianna Ziolkowski is a lights-out shooter and will be supported by solid offensive player Lauren Anklam (8.3ppg).
“This year we have 3 seniors who have been around our varsity team for awhile now,” said head coach Matt Bullis. ”Lauren Anklam is a returning 2nd Team All Conference Player with great leadership ability and her teammates really look to her in all areas of our team on and off the floor. Brianna Ziolkowski and Paige Day are also good senior leaders and the young team we have looks to them for guidance in making us better.”
Bullis said that the Evergreens’ success will depend largely upon how well the younger players can handle the spotlight without much varsity experience.
“We’ll be playing quite a few sophomores along with some juniors who didn’t see a lot of action last year on the varsity team,” Bullis said. “Right now I like how our team has come together over the summer and they really care about one another and want to go above and beyond for each other to help each other out. They have the right mindset on what it means to be a team, and if we keep that in the forefront on our minds, we have a chance to have a really nice year.”
2011-12 record: 4-8 WVC ; 10-13 overall
West looks to rebound after struggling in conference play last year. Anna Brown led the Warriors in scoring last year with an 8.7ppg average. West has a number of returning seniors this year. Look for the Warriors’ experience to pay off.
“We have five kids returning who started at times for us last season – two seniors, Ellie Hrdina and Caity Coleman, two juniors, Anna Brown and Caty Cihlar, and our sophomore point guard Jasmin Samz,” said West head coach Patrick Galligan. ”Jasmin, Caity, Anna and Caty all averaged between 8-9 points last season, so we should have good balance on the offensive end – we also get back Kierra Kohlbeck, who started for us as a freshmen (she is now a junior) and averaged 7.5 points per game, but missed last season due to knee issues.”
Galligan said that for the team to be successful, they have to play united on both sides of the ball.
“On defense, we have at times struggled to stop teams… at crucial times, and if we want to play to our potential we must commit to defensive intensity,” Galligan said. ”We like to play at a high tempo, but we must find a way to play tough defense and rebound the ball in order to limit the other teams chances to score.”
2011-12 record: 0-12 WVC ; 5-17 overall
The Lumberjacks were overmatched in conference play in 2011-12, which resulted in a winless conference campaign. However, East did pull out non-conference victories over Mosinee and Lakeland. East lost several very close games and looks to use their 2011-12 record as motivation to improve this season.
The Lumberjacks will rely on scoring threat Vanessa Boorse (7.7ppg) and solid defense to keep Valley opponents on their toes this year.
All stats are for Wisconsin Valley Conference play