Crusader girls make many improvements

Sophomore Kalie Winter will step up as a defensive specialist for the 2014-15 season, according to LHS head coach Kris Gustin. (Staff photo by Melissa Marohl)

Sophomore Kalie Winter will step up as a defensive specialist for the 2014-15 season, according to LHS head coach Kris Gustin. (Staff photo by Melissa Marohl)

The Crusader girls’ basketball team can take pride in the strides they made this season as a team. A team that made improvements across all areas of the game including defense, overall skills, and team chemistry.

“That’s ultimately what you want out of every season is that you get better,” LHS head coach Kris Gustin said. “We made a lot of improvements in a lot of different areas.”

One of the team’s biggest challenges of the season was figuring out how each player would fit into her role on the team. With many faces new to the varsity court and players spanning four grade levels, the Crusaders had to adjust.

Gustin said the team struggled early in the season with knowing where opponents’ best shooters and players were on the court, focusing on man-to-man defense over a team effort.

“We struggled early in the season with our defensive awareness,” he said.

With players in different roles, Gustin said the team’s early games against Annandale and Norwood Young America were difficult.

“We had a couple of games that we let slip away from us,” he said. “It was just kind of a learning experience, understanding what it takes to win a game at the end.”

Junior Brenna Larsen will be one of the team’s top returning scorers next season, along with junior Maria Kuntz. (Staff photo by Melissa Marohl)

Junior Brenna Larsen will be one of the team’s top returning scorers next season, along with junior Maria Kuntz. (Staff photo by Melissa Marohl)

But by the end of the season, the Crusaders had improved substantially in both rebounding and defensive mentality, he said, coming to fruition in the team’s Jan. 31 and March 6 games against Jordan. Although the Crusaders would lose both contests, they were able to all but stop Jordan’s star player, Madison Dean.

“We just stopped her penetration much, much earlier than in previous games,” Gustin said of the March game.

The Crusaders finished the 2013-14 season 17-11 overall, with a 10-4 conference record that tied them for third place, trailing a two-way tie for first.

Eight different Mayer Lutheran players scored 100 or more points this season, led by senior Lauren Manteuffel with 323 points. Juniors Maria Kuntz (250), Brenna Larsen (247), and senior Shelby Sicheneder (205) all topped 200 points, while seniors Josie Peters (16), Krianna Boelke (158), freshman Emilee Gustin (128), and sophomore Kalie Winter (104) all scored over 100.

On defense, Manteuffel (203), Kuntz (184), and Sicheneder (177) led the team in rebounds, while Boelke had a team-high 84 steals, followed by Larsen at 48.

The Crusaders are losing four seniors this season in Boelke, Manteuffel, Peters, and Sicheneder, four players who contributed most of the team’s on-court minutes. Kris Gustin described the departing seniors as tough and gritty, bringing a strong attitude and mentality to the team.

“That’s the way they were and that transcended to our team,” he said.

For the 2014-15 season, the Crusaders will have five returning letter winners in Kuntz and Larsen, along with Winter, Emilee Gustin, and Sophie Flucas.

“We’re going to rely on (Larsen and Kuntz) quite a bit,” Kris Gustin said.

But in the off season, he isn’t worried about who will step up or do the work. He said it always seems to take care of itself and the team is always ready for the next year.

For their efforts this season, Manteuffel and Sicheneder received All-Conference awards, while Boelke was All-Conference Honorable Mention.

 

Contact Melissa Marohl at melissa.marohl@ecm-inc.com

 
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