Team: WHS girls’ basketball
Coach: Carl Pierson
Assistant coaches: Dusty Neibauer and Anna Philp
Captains: Samantha Laumann, Brenna Rice, and Kaylee Vanderhoff
Conf.: Wright County
Class/Section: Class 3A, Section 6 – Holy Angels, Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Blake, Holy Family, Minneapolis Washburn, Mound-Westonka, and Richfield
2013 finish: The Wildcats finished last season with an 18-9 record, and captured their second consecutive Wright County Conference title with an undefeated 10-0 WCC – East record.
The team put together an eight-game win streak in January and finished the season fourth in the state for scoring, averaging nearly 66 points per game, with three games topping 80 points.
Waconia defined itself as the comeback kids last season, where the Wildcats became known for their dominating come-from-behind rallies to win close games.
The season ended surprisingly early as the ‘Cats were upset by Holy Family in the section tournament.
Key returnees: After the departure of All-State Honorable Mention/All-Conference athlete Morgan Iverson, All-Conference Stephanie Dressen, All-Conference Honorable Mention Caroline Jacobs, Sarah Christians, and Fiona DeMario, the team was left without some of its biggest contributors from last season.
But back for WHS this season and ready to carry the team are a small group of experienced players. Junior Anna Schmitt returns are the team’s leading point guard, after earning All-State Honorable Mention and All-Conference honors as a sophomore last season.
Miranda Schultz and Nicole Dressen return as the team’s most experienced seniors, although Dressen is still recovering from a knee surgery and won’t be cleared to play for a few weeks, according to head coach Carl Pierson. Senior Sam Laumann will also return to the varsity court after missing most of last season with a knee injury.
“Anna Schmitt is one of the most dynamic point guards in the state and will spearhead our offense,” Pierson said. “Schultz will be in her third season as a varsity player and will need to emerge as more of a scorer than she’s been previously.”
Also back to the varsity roster is sophomore Madelin Dammann.
“Dammann was among the first off the bench last year but will be counted on to play a much larger role this season,” Pierson said.
Newcomers: Two of this season’s captains, Kaylee Vanderhoff and Brenna Rice, don’t have much varsity experience but were crucial to the junior varsity in 2012-13.
“Kaylee Vanderhoff and Brenna Rice anchored the JV team last year and will ascend to starter roles this year,” Pierson said.
New varsity regulars will also include juniors Kelsey Eder and Kendall Eder, along with sophomores Emily Anderson, Halli Koppi, and Megan Kirsch. Pierson said other players, like junior Kahner Priess, sophomore Allyson Fuller, and sophomore Samantha Jones will also step on to the varsity court in case of foul trouble or injuries.
Teams to beat: With Delano and Orono as favorites in the WCC – East, the Tigers and Spartans will surely be on the top of Waconia’s teams to beat.
At the section level, Benilde-St. Margaret’s is favored to make the state tournament, with Holy Family, Minneapolis Washburn, and Richfield
also in contention, according to Pierson.
“We are certainly an underdog on paper, but we really like the group we have, how hard they work, and what we have the chance to become,” Pierson said.
The Wildcats are a guard-heavy team this season, with just one player over 5-foot-9, and will be considerably smaller than most of their opponents, Pierson said.
“We are adapting our style of play in an attempt to negate the opponent’s height advantage and to play to our strengths,” he said.
Goals: Pierson said the team will pursue a third Wright County Conference title this season as well as a section title, something he believes should be goals of every team.
“A three-peat will be difficult to achieve, but it’s certainly something we will strive for,” he said. “However, our primary goals will be to play fast, play aggressive, score a lot of points, and have a lot of fun. If we do those things, the winning and losing will take care of itself.”
Fun will certainly be common for the Wildcats, as they are partnering with two local businesses this season. With HomeTown Bank, Waconia will have “Cats with a Cause,” where fans can pledge 10 cents for every three-pointer made this season, with half the proceeds going to team equipment and the other half to the American Cancer Society. HomeTown Bank has agreed to match up to $1,000.
There will also be five “Free Food Fastbreak Nights,” with the ‘Cats this season, where on certain nights, fans can bring their game program to Island View Golf Course for a half-priced appetizer. If the Wildcats score 80 or more points during one of the designated nights, the appetizer is free. The first Free Food Fastbreak Night is Friday, Dec. 20.
First games: The Wildcats kicked off the season with a tournament at Hamline over the Thanksgiving weekend. Defeating St. Anthony Village 111-104 on Nov. 29, the Wildcats set a new state record with the Huskies for most combined points scored in a game. The high school also ranks among the top national scores.
Despite the score, Pierson said the team didn’t have it’s best day shooting, making only 36.6 percent of two-pointers (40-109).
“We didn’t have our best game shooting, but our defense created some easy scoring opportunities and as a team we did an outstanding job of attacking the boards,” he said.
Anna Schmitt and Madelin Dammann led the Wildcats with 28 and 20 points, respectively. Kelsey Eder had eight rebounds for WHS.
The next day, Waconia picked up its second win with a 91-68 victory over Providence Academy. Trailing by one point with six minutes to go in the first half, the Wildcats outscored Providence 28-8 in those final minutes for a 59-40 halftime lead. Waconia extended its lead to nearly 30 points in the second half.
“Providence is famous for slowing the game down so we were pleased to learn we could push the pace,” Pierson said. “We attacked every second of the game. If we can continue to carry that mentality with us, we’ll be a team no one enjoys playing against. But we’ll also be a team Wildcat fans will love to come watch.”
Top scorers for WHS included Schmitt (30), Kendall Eder (13), Miranda Schultz (11), Brenna Rice (11), and Kaylee Vanderhoff (11).
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com