Crusaders look to stay competitive
Team: Mayer Lutheran girls’ basketball
Coach: Kris Gustin
Years with team: 7
Assistant coaches: Anne Winter and Gary Loontjer
Conference: Minnesota River
Captains: Ashlyn Hucky and Nico Schmidt
2011-12 finish: The Crusaders finished last season with an overall record of 17-11. They were third in the Minnesota River Conference. After defeating conference rival Norwood Young America in the first round of section competition, the Crusaders fell to Providence Academy in early March. Providence went on to win the Class AA state title. Last season, the Crusaders scored over 1,600 points, grabbed over 1,000 rebounds and over 300 steals.
Key losses: Class of 2012 graduates Jessica Klaustermeier (All-Conference, Section 5AA Sub-Section team), Taylor Rollo (All-Conference), and Morgan Hensel (All-Conference Honorable Mention), along with Jennifer Krentz will all be missing from this season’s lineup. Rollo and Klaustermeier were two of the team’s top three scorers, and Rollo led the team in rebounds and blocks, while Klaustermeier led in steals.
Key returnees: Despite the loss of last year’s seniors, the Crusaders still have three strong scorers in Nico Schmidt, Ashlyn Hucky, and Lauren Manteuffel. Schmidt is a returning All-Conference and Section 5AA Sub-Section team athlete. Tina Bruggman, Holly Johnson, and Emily Johnson all return as seniors for the Crusaders, along with junior Josie Peters.
Key newcomers: Mayer Lutheran has pulled six talented players up from their junior varsity ranks including juniors Shelby Sicheneder, Krianna Boelke, and Grace Gasson, and sophomores Brenna Larsen, Cailey Benkowski, and Maria Kuntz.
Teams to beat: Gustin said the MRC will be tough as always, but also unpredictable as a few teams are under new coaches. Jordan, Norwood Young America, and Belle Plaine will also be strong competitors, Gustin predicts. Fortunately, the Crusaders seem to have an advantage on the court in size, with many tall players.
“We should have a size advantage almost every night on the floor,” Gustin said.
Gustin also hopes the Crusaders can improve on hitting outside shots, something the team struggled with in 2011-12, hitting only 23 percent of three-point shot attempts.
Goals: Gustin’s goals are simple, to battle for the top of the conference and battle within the section when it comes time. He wants to at least be in the top half of the MRC when all is said and done.
First games: With nine games schedule before the holiday break in late December, The Crusaders don’t have much time to prepare.
“We’ll get a chance early on to see how we stand,” Gustin said.