2017 Viroqua girls basketball team

Members of the Viroqua girls basketball team for 2017-18 include (front, from left) Claire Anderson, Natalie Waldenberger, Autumn Goodwin, Rebecca Schipper, Madelyn Anderson; Kendra Jerdee; (back) head coach Joe Willis, Taylor Cowden, Lauren Brendel, Ashlee Gander, Hope Petersheim, Brooke Knutson, manager Mia Olsen and assistant coach Katie Schwarz.

Michelle Willis photo

Coming into last season, Viroqua girls basketball coach Joe Willis was at a disadvantage from the start, stepping into the position for the first time late in the summer.

“As a new head coach every offensive and defensive call was new to the girls last year…the girls have played in the system now for a year and are familiar with the expectations,” Willis said.

The second-year coach welcomes eight seniors and three juniors to this year’s roster and is optimistic about the Blackhawks’ chances this season.

“I enter this season with high expectations and optimism. We will play with a roster of eight seniors and three juniors,” Willis said. “We bring back scoring and defense, but lose some height and a little bit of ball-handling off last year’s team.”

Lost to graduation from the VHS roster are Rachel Nigh, the team’s leading rebounder and the lone all-conference selection; the Blackhawks’ top point guards, Ally Stilwell and Amber Bakkestuen; and Crystal Noble, who provided toughness off the bench.

Top returning players include 5-foot-8-inch Claire Anderson, a guard and a four-year varsity player, and 5-foot-10-inch Natalie Waldenberger, a forward, who Willis is counting on to control the paint and extend her game to the perimeter. “Waldenberger will be counted on to improve our interior scoring and rebounding.”

According to Willis, the Blackhawks will look to senior Brooke Knutson at 5-feet-5-inches to handle the offense from the point guard position as floor general.

What does the second-year head coach see as his team’s strengths this season? “We will be organized on offense and defense and transition.” What will be the team’s biggest challenges? “We have to shoot a better percentage from every position on the floor this year. Our shooting percentage wouldn’t allow us to win close games…against really talented teams last season…and to borrow a theme from the Wisconsin Men’s team-minimizing turnovers and causing more turnovers is an area where we can make a big improvement.”

Willis is straight forward about his expectations for this year’s VHS team. “There are very few things in the game of basketball and in life that are under your control…attitude and effort are two things of which you are completely in charge. Bring a positive attitude and maximum effort and results will take care of themselves.”

When asked about his perspective on the top teams in the conference this year, Willis was optimistic saying, “As a coach, I plan and prepare to win every game we play…I would hope to take a big step forward this season in terms of basketball program success. I expect to contend with the traditional powers in the conference of West Salem and G-E-T…Arcadia brings a good squad back too.”

Katie Schwartz will assist Willis, as the Blackhawks look to improve on last year’s 4-17 mark.

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