The Iola-Scandinavia girls’ basketball team is back on the court with a new attitude following the first two losing seasons in the program’s history.
“The last two seasons are the first losing seasons we’ve ever had in girls’ basketball,” coach Mark Wester said. “Last season, the record didn’t indicate that we had success. We were competitive in close games, we got better and our defense was solid throughout the season. We’re always going to hang our hat on that.”
The Thunderbirds are coming off of a 2-21 season in 2010-11 and an 8-15 season in 2009-10.
Inexperienced younger players will have to make a difference if the T-Birds are going to turn the corner this season.
“We have some exciting youth coming through the program, some kids that have really been committed in their offseason programming that have committed to making themselves better in a lot of sports,” Wester said. “We’ll have some young players out on the floor that are going to push for a lot of playing time for us. The kids love the game and they’re excited to go out and play. They’re smart kids that are going to learn from their mistakes. We’re going to take our lumps, but we’ll grow and continue to get better.”
The T-Birds lost their top two players from last season – Morgan Oppor and Mary Marx – to graduation.
“We lost two girls that were good players for us, but we have a new team now,” Wester said. “We’re young, but we do have some seniors back off of last year’s team that contributed and did some good things. We’re looking forward to their leadership.”
Seniors Elle Maus, Sarah Brumer and Paige Berg suited up for the varsity team last year, while another senior, Amanda Aanstad, is back after missing the second half of last season with a foot injury.
The T-Birds don’t have any juniors on the roster, so Wester is looking to his freshman and sophomores
“I like their attitude,” Wester said of his freshman and sophomores, who include sophomores Natalie Gauerke, Emily Sether, Krystal Tysdal, Tyisha Weed, Amber Brumer and Karina Welch; and freshmen Kylie Johnson, Jane Oligney and Brooke Phillips.
“They’re smart kids that work hard,” Wester said. “We’re still trying to figure some things related to personnel, but I like the skill level I’m seeing from the younger players. It always starts with defense with us, but if you can have kids that can handle the basketball and put the ball in the basket, you still need to have that happen. It looks like we’re going to have a few more of those threats this year. It’s relative to kids working on their individual games during the offseason and improving some of those areas that are so important to the game of basketball, the ability to pass, see the floor, handle the ball, shoot and make some big open shots.
“I think we’re going to be a little smaller in some cases, but you can make up for that with sheer determination,” he added. “It’ll be interesting to see how our depth comes across, if we’re going to have depth or we’re going to be a team that’ll play only six or seven kids. If you have depth, that’s great, it makes your team better. Like every year, it’s finding that right mix and developing a rotation.”
The T-Birds compete in the Central Wisconsin 8 Conference with some solid programs.
“You’re looking at some strong programs with Wittenberg-Birnamwood, Amherst and Weyauwega-Fremont,” Wester said. “Bonduel has an experienced group that has played a lot of ball together.”
The T-Birds will open their season with a nonconference matchup Friday, Dec. 2, at Wild Rose. I-S warmed up for its opener Monday, Nov. 28, with a scrimmage with Almond-Bancroft.
“That’ll give us a good chance to get game experience, even though it’s called a scrimmage,” Wester said. “We don’t keep score, but it gives us a chance to get out on the court and see where we’re at.”
Wester and his team aren’t dwelling on last season’s two wins.
“There were good things that happened last season that you didn’t always see when you came to the basketball games,” he said. “We’re obviously not talking about last season. That’s done and over with. We’re looking forward to this season.”