La Crescent High School girls basketball coach Ryan Niemeier knew his coaching strategy long before he ran his first team practice with the Lancers mid-November — they were going to run.
Before coaching the La Crescent JV boys basketball team last season, Niemeier spent several seasons as an assistant with the Logan High School girls basketball team. Niemeier was with the Rangers during a stretch when they were one of the premier Division 1 programs in Wisconsin, known for their run and gun offense and consistent full-court press.
Shortly after Niemeier was hired this summer, he began to revamp the pace for La Crescent’s offensive and defensive systems.
“We’re going to try to get up and down the court, be uptempo,” said Niemeier about the team’s strategy this season. “We’ll be full-court pressing, and trying to get the ball going up and down.”
“We’re long and athletic,” said Niemeier. “So we’re going to try to utilize that to our advantage.”
Niemeier, an engineering and construction manager at CenturyLink, said what brought him to La Crescent around four years ago was his wife, Houston native Summer Thorson, who owns and runs Thorson Graphics on South Walnut Street.
Niemeier may be new to the La Crescent athletics department, but he’s personally close with two of the other four winter coaches. Niemeier’s niece, Taylor Lueck, is in her first season as the gymnastics coach — and Niemeier and his wife will be attending the spring wedding for Adam Kimball, who coaches the Lancer hockey team.
According to Niemeier, the Lancers are still a work in progress. But after winning only six games last season, Niemeier said his main expectation this year is to surpass that.
“It’s always state,” said Niemeier of his highest hopes for La Crescent this season. “But realistically for us, we want to improve from last year. If we can make an improvement from last season, at whatever level that is, we’ll be happy.”
According to Niemeier, the Lancers will practice twice daily for the opening weeks of the season, with conditioning and fundamentals stressed in the mornings, and nights focused around systems and philosophy. Niemeier said he warned players whenever he saw them this summer to be in shape for the first practice, because they were going to be running hard and often. Niemeier goes to exercise boot camp twice a week, and incorporated similar methods in the team’s morning sessions.
In order for the Lancers to play the high-paced style that Niemeier wants on both sides of the ball, he said players need to be in prime condition, especially without having a deep bench to help recover with. Niemeier said the Lancers have enough girls out this season to field three teams, but will have to rely on some girls to play for multiple teams. La Crescent’s rosters this season will consist of four seniors, a big junior class and some freshman, and no sophomores.
Senior Rachel Ekker said she anticipated the heavy load of conditioning to open the season, after her and other players touched base multiple times over contact days this summer, where they learned of Niemeier’s plans. Hovering around 5’10, Ekker will be the tallest player on the court this season for the Lancers, but she can spread to the perimeter along with being a solid player in the post.
Senior point guard Riley Von Arx said she was gone all summer, so the first practice was her first introduction to the new program. But Von Arx said it didn’t take long for her to realize their new coach’s intention was to push the pace.
Both Ekker and Von Arx agree with Niemeier in that the most important goal for the Lancers is to win more than the six games they won last year. The seniors also had a separate objective in regards to what team the Lancers want to beat the most this season.
“Cotter,” Ekker and Von Arx answered in unison.