By Paul Lecker
STRATFORD — A two-game winning streak to start 2017 and the second half of its season has the Stratford girls basketball team feeling good.
The Tigers came into a game Thursday against Wausau Newman Catholic with an 11-2 record and a 5-1 mark in the Marawood Conference South Division. Stratford’s only conference loss was to Marathon by just one point, 39-38, on Dec. 22.
Since then the Tigers handed Bangor its first loss of the season, lost to a talented Westby squad, and started the new year with a 35-point win at Northland Lutheran and a 78-54 nonconference victory at home against Crandon Monday.
As the Tigers begin the second half of their conference schedule against Newman, coach Tammie Christopherson said they are right where they expected to be.
“Coming into this season as a team, our goal was to put ourselves into a position to win the Marawood Conference,” Christopherson said. “We returned three starters this season and my first two players off the bench. We also have rounded out the team with a group of very athletic sophomores. The entire team keeps improving every week, and I truly believe that our best basketball is still ahead of us.”
The improved play of senior Andie Zuelke, one of the returning starters, has been a major factor. She averages 14.8 points and 10 rebounds a game, and she had 25 points and 10 boards in the win over Crandon.
Her play will be key when the Tigers host Marathon in the rematch of conference leaders on Feb. 4.
“We need to keep Andie Zuelke on the floor,” Christopherson said. “The first time we played them she had 14 points and only played 13 minutes. We also need to have a balanced scoring attack from the inside and the outside. Defensively, we held them to eight points in the second half. However, we came up short on the offensive end.
“Andie has really come into her own this season. I personally feel that she is the most dominant post player currently in the conference. She has created an inside game that Stratford basketball has lacked the past few years.”
Senior point guard Sammy Griesbach has steered the ship for the Tigers, averaging 11 points and dishing out five assists per game. She had a rare triple-double in the win over Crandon, scoring 17 points and finishing with 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
Senior Olivia Burrows; juniors Chelsey Gliniecki, Taya Nett, Olympia Garrigan, and Kaylee Hollatz; and sophomores Blaire Linder, Brooke Peterson, and Mariah Zawislan round out the roster, all contributing to Stratford’s hot first half.
“Our goal every day in practice is to get better,” Christopherson said. “We are getting good contributions from juniors Kaylee Hollatz, Chelsey Gliniecki, and Taya Nett. My sophomores are taking on larger roles all the time as well. We have a tough schedule coming up that includes Newman, Marathon, and Wittenberg-Birnamwood. We have to stay focused and just take one game at a time.”
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at email@example.com.