By Paul Lecker
STRATFORD — The Stratford girls basketball team’s 7-2 start to the season may be surprising to some but not to the Tigers.
Stratford started the season 6-0 before suffering conference home losses to Auburndale and Wisconsin Rapids Assumption during the last two weeks.
Second-year coach Tammie Christopherson has high hopes for the Tigers this season but knows there is still plenty of work to do.
The Tigers cleared one hurdle toward becoming a top-tier team in the Marawood Conference South by beating Wausau Newman Catholic on the road on Dec. 10, but a 10-point loss to Auburndale and a turnover-plagued 57-30 defeat to Assumption on Monday have showed they are not quite there.
“We’re a program that’s been building and rising,” Christopherson said. “I tell the girls we’re a good program. We want to be a great program. In order to be a great program, we have to beat these teams at the top of the Marawood. We’re sick and tired of being fourth or fifth, we want to climb out of that.
“We’re heading in the right direction, but we’re not there yet. It’s a long season. I have all the confidence that we can figure this out and we can come back stronger the next time. The beauty of the Marawood is we get see these teams all over again.”
Stratford has a roster filled with juniors and sophomores. The only senior is 5-foot-11 center Marissa Cepress.
Juniors Macie Frueh and Tianna Hughes are each averaging 10 points a game, and Cepress, Savannah Schillinger, and Casey Kolbeck—the other three starters in the Tigers’ lineup—have also scored in double figures in at least one game this season.
“We’re a small team, and that does hurt us sometimes,” Christopherson said. “We do get scoring from a lot of different places, and I think that is probably our biggest strength right now. We have to develop an inside game. We can’t rely solely on living and dying by the 3-point line. Slowly but surely we’re creeping into the inside game a little more.”
The Tigers, 2-2 in the Marawood South, have games against Pittsville and Marathon coming up before beginning their second time through the conference slate. Christopherson said the team needs to continue to work hard and improve, especially in the mental part of the game.
“We’re still young. My goal is that we keep getting better,” Christopherson said. “My first three people off the bench are sophomores. I see growth in them too. We have to keep building. This conference is absolutely insane. There’s no off night in the Marawood, but I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at email@example.com.