The Viroqua girls basketball team had a lot of player turnover on its varsity roster from last year to this year. For the 2018-19 season, the team includes a freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors who will all see playing time.
“I believe this team is more competitive than prior years, and also brings more fundamental skill to the table,” said third-year coach Joe Willis. “Our scoring this year should be more balanced, and we saw that from our first game with De Soto, when we had three players in double figures. Last year, the team relied heavily on Claire Anderson for ball-handling and scoring and leadership. Those duties are much more shared this season.”
The team lost Claire Anderson to graduation. “She was our top scorer and our only scorer to average double figures from a year ago,” Willis said. “She was all-conference honorable mention.”
Top returning players include Lauren Brendel, a senior and three-year varsity player, who will play a wing, and be called on to stretch a defense and lead the team, Willis said.
“Sophomores Hallie Sherry and Jess Tryggestad will be handling the ball and will play a lot of minutes,” Willis said. “They will be asked to learn a lot of information and perform at a high level coming into the season. We’ll get our post play from Bri Carman, a junior who joins our team for the first time, and from Kendra Jerdee and Josie Dobbs. A senior and junior, respectively, who need to play good interior defense, run the floor and control the paint.”
As a coach does Willis have a team motto or goals put forth to the athletes?
“Players are asked to control their attitude and effort,” he said. “There is little else on the basketball court that is completely under your control, but attitude and effort are choices that cannot be dictated by anyone else. With their attitude, be a team-first player, and be positive. Learning occurs more readily in a positive environment with supportive teammates. And with regards to effort, give your best effort in practice and in each play in games. Play every play with your best effort.”
Willis said the team should be much more competitive this season. “The 13 players on the varsity roster challenge each other in practice. We will be a much more balanced and organized team this season.”
Willis said the team’s biggest challenges will be handling teams with height and cleaning up defensive rebounds. “We’ll also be dealing with some inexperience in certain situations, and getting everyone up to speed by the time we play West Salem to open our coulee conference season will be a challenge.”
Willis said the top contender for the Coulee title goes to G-E-T.
“They feature really skilled players with good height and athleticism at every position. They beat you in any number of ways and present a real challenge,” he said. “Luther features a really good player in Kaitlyn Kennedy and have good height. West Salem is always tough. Arcadia finished third in the conference a year ago and brings a lot of players back. So the conference is, once again, very tough. Our team is difficult to gauge in terms of standings in the Coulee, as we have so many new players who will see time on the varsity squad. We’ll certainly look to be much better than our 1-11 conference record each of the past two seasons.”
Katie Schwarz is the team’s assistant coach. The team’s record last season was 2-21.