By Paul Lecker
Rinse, win, repeat: Marshfield looks to win back-to-back conference titles
MARSHFIELD — The Marshfield girls basketball team won its first Wisconsin Valley Conference championship in five years last season, and the expectations are to do the same in 2016-2017.
The Tigers return four starters from a team that finished a perfect 12-0 in the Valley and 23-3 overall, reaching the WIAA Division 1 sectional finals before losing to Appleton North by two points.
Senior Ema Fehrenbach is back after scoring 18 points and grabbing eight rebounds per game, earning first-team all-WVC honors.
Fellow senior Maddie Nikolai (8 points per game) also is back along with juniors Meg Bryan (8 ppg) and Hannah Meverden (8 points, 10 rebounds per game). Meverden is currently out with a knee injury suffered during volleyball season, and the timetable for her return is not known.
“We have tons of experience back from last year,” coach Heidi Michaelis said. “Obviously Meverden being out initially hurts us, but it’s always another opportunity for other younger athletes to step in and contribute and get great court time. Both Fehrenbach and Nikolai are ready to lead this team and have worked extremely hard in the offseason playing all summer and in the fall to get ready.”
Sophomore Jenna Jakobi joined the varsity midway through last season and contributed valuable minutes during the playoff run. Juniors Corianne Johnson, Katie Osinski, Sophie Koehn, and Kendra Tremelling will also vie for playing time.
The Tigers started their season Nov. 17 with a tough six-point nonconference loss at Hortonville, the beginning of a difficult nonconference schedule that includes defending Big Rivers Conference co-champion Chippewa Falls and Badger North co-champion Waunakee, one of the three teams to have knocked off Marshfield last year.
“Our schedule is brutal for nonconference, but the most important thing is that we are the best team possible at the end of the season,” said Michaelis, who is a stellar 280-80 in 15 seasons as Marshfield’s head coach. Last year’s conference title was the eighth for the Tigers under Michaelis.
Riding the wave: Last year’s strong finish has Marshfield Columbus Catholic optimistic about 2016-2017
MARSHFIELD — Marshfield Columbus Catholic girls basketball had an up-and-down campaign last season, but the Dons finished strong, and second-year coach Rhonda Keding is looking for the team to carry that momentum into 2016-2017.
Six players return for the Dons, who went 12-13 overall and were 6-10 and in sixth place in the Cloverbelt Conference East Division a year ago. After starting the season 1-4, the Dons had two four-game winning streaks and a pair of three-game losing skids. The final win streak came at the end of the year, which included a pair of playoff wins before losing a WIAA Division 5 regional final to Loyal.
“Hopefully we start where we finished last year: on a good note,” Keding said. “Toward the end last year, the girls started coming together and knowing what each teammate could do. Once they got to know each other’s strengths, you could see confidence.”
The Dons will have to replace the scoring of guards Abby Baierl and Jessica Trad, who combined for 19.3 points per game.
Junior post player Marissa Immerfall is the team’s leading returning scorer and rebounder after averaging 9.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest as a sophomore.
Guards Morgan Albrecht and Baylie Neider have stepped into starting roles in the backcourt. Joining them in the lineup will be Immerfall, center Kendra Baierl, and wing Natalie Pospyhalla, who averaged 5.4 points per game a year ago.
Sophomore Maren Seefluth also returns and will come off the bench along with junior Zoe Stratman and sophomore Hailey Roehl.
Pospyhalla, a senior, had 13 points, and Albrecht, a junior, had 11 in Columbus Catholic’s season-opening win Nov. 15 against Rib Lake.
“We lost Abby and Jess, which were shooters, but during the summer I could see everyone picking up that role,” Keding said. “I would love to see teams go against us and not know who to guard.”
Outside of the 6-foot-3 Baierl, who hauled down 15 rebounds in the opener, height is lacking. Keding said the quickness of guards need to offset that.
“We are a small team, so hopefully our quickness can help out since we don’t have the height,” Keding said. “The girls know I’m not about stats. They are just numbers on paper. It’s what they do as a team on the court that shows more than stats.”
Fresh faces: Auburndale has just one returning starter and a new head coach
AUBURNDALE — The Auburndale girls basketball team will have nearly an entire new look this season.
The Apaches return just one starter and five players overall to a team that went 21-3 a year ago and was co-champion of the Marawood Conference South Division with Wisconsin Rapids Assumption and Marathon.
Nearly all of the scoring from last year’s squad that won 16 games in a row prior to losing in the WIAA Division 4 regional finals to Neillsville is gone.
Senior Brooke Anderson is the lone starter returning, but she averaged just 2.4 points per game as the Apaches relied heavily on post players Paiton Richardson and Taylor Gotz, who combined to score 32 points a game and were both first-team all-conference performers.
Adding to the mix of a new lineup is a new coach. Michael Gehrke takes over for Scott Meidl, who coached the Apaches to a 57-18 record the previous four years.
Mackenzie Raab, a sophomore, and juniors Rachael Bolder and Hannah Bolder will find increased playing time along with senior Rachel Gronemeyer. All four played off the bench last season with Raab seeing the most action.
Junior Lauren Dillinger and sophomore Marissa Ponshock round out the roster.
“This season will be one of transition as the Apaches have no players returning that averaged more than 3 points,” Gehrke said. “We will be looking for returning starters Brooke Anderson and Mackenzie Raab to step up this season.”
Taking the next step: After finishing fourth last year, Stratford looks to move up in the conference standings
STRATFORD — Three starters and three bench players return for a Stratford girls basketball team that just found itself a little behind the top three teams in the Marawood Conference South Division.
The Tigers went 17-0 against teams not named Marathon, Wisconsin Rapids Assumption, or Auburndale but could not get past those three, going a combined 0-7 against them, including a WIAA Division 4 regional semifinal loss to Marathon.
Fourth-year head coach Tammie Christopherson said the Tigers have plans on moving up in the conference standings but will have to find new ways to score after losing their top two point getters from last year: second-team all-Marawood South performer Savannah Schillinger and Macie Frueh.
Seniors Andie Zuelke (6.2 points, 5.7 rebounds per game) and Sammy Griesbach (11.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg) will be back in the starting lineup along with junior Kaylee Hollatz (4 ppg, 5.6 rpg).
Juniors Taya Nett and Chelsey Glinieck and senior Olivia Burrows played reserve roles a year ago and also are back for Stratford. Junior Olympia Garrigan and sophomores Blaire Linder, Mariah Zawislan, and Brooke Peterson are newcomers that round out the roster.
“We have high expectations for the season and plan on being in the hunt for the Marawood Conference title,” Christopherson said. “We will have a good balance of experienced veterans and young newcomers.
“We are a scrappy, determined team with strong defensive skills and a core of experienced players. We need to have people step in and fill that offensive (scoring) void.”
Christopherson said the Tigers will be tested both in and out of conference. After three nonconference games, Stratford will open Marawood South play at Wausau Newman Catholic on Dec. 2 and host Auburndale on Dec. 6, two teams that should be in the championship chase.
“I am very excited to get the season underway,” Christopherson said. “We have an incredibly tough schedule, so we will be tested early and often. This is an extremely focused, hard-working group of young ladies.”
Run, Rockets, run: Spencer adjusts its strategy after losing leading scorers from a year ago
SPENCER — With the loss of four of its top five scorers to graduation, the Spencer girls basketball team is taking a new approach and looking to use a faster-paced offense to lead the way.
Spencer returns five players from last year’s team that finished 13-10 and 9-7 in the Cloverbelt Conference East Division. The Rockets suffered a first-round loss in the WIAA Division 4 playoffs to Wabeno/Laona.
Gone to graduation are Sydney Kind, a first-team all-Cloverbelt East performer who led the Rockets with 15.1 points per game last season; center Macie Weber (7.7 ppg); and guards Nadia King (4.7 ppg) and Kallie Reckner (3.8 ppg).
Junior Lexi Baehr is the Rockets’ top returning scorer after averaging 10.7 points per contest a year ago as a sophomore.
Senior guards Courtney Buss and Jessica Becker and post players Liz Endreas, a senior, and Sabrina Vircks, a junior, also return. Guards Kaily Northup and McKenna Brecht will join the varsity.
“We lost most of our scoring from last year to graduation,” fourth-year head coach Brian Abel said. “We will need new people to step up and become scorers for us to be successful. We will also have to be better defensively along with being more aggressive.”
The Rockets hope that aggressive defensive approach will lead to easy offense.
“This year we are going to transition more into a transition game and try to get up and down the court more,” Abel said. “Our expectation is to compete in every game and continue to get better as we head into playoffs.”
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at email@example.com.