2017-18 Girls Basketball Previews

Alpena

Last season: 12-9; lost to Traverse City Central in district quarterfinals

Key Players: Emma Jore, senior, point guard; Dakota Prevo, senior, forward; Jade Schultz, sophomore, forward; Kourtney Jones, senior, guard.

Coach Erin Andrews: “From what I can tell, I think we’re going to be pretty good. We’re hoping to be up near the top of the Big North. We were close in a lot of games last year and (this year) we want to press and get after people.”

Overview: With a strong core of returning talent and a new coach in Erin Andrews, the Wildcats are hoping finish near the top of the Big North Conference standings. Andrews is looking for the Wildcats to speed things up and using a full-court press should lead to more success on both ends of the floor. Jore provides plenty of leadership, speed and scoring ability and should lead a more aggressive Alpena squad. Prevo leads Alpena’s front court and with any luck senior Shelby Seaver, Alpena’s leading scorer a year ago, could make a return later in the season. In her absence, Maddie Voltz and Schulz should give Alpena good depth up front. With size up front and speedy guards, Alpena has all the tools for a successful season, but will have to do a better job finishing games. Six of Alpena’s nine losses last season were by less than 10 points.

Hillman

Last season: 21-2; lost to Pickford in regional semifinals

Key Players: Lyndsey Ryba, senior, guard; Kristen Kenyon, senior, forward; Eve LaFleche, senior, guard; Jozie Appelgren, senior, forward; Andrea Taratuta, senior, forward/guard.

Coach John Kuzewski: “Expectations are always pretty high in Hillman and that’s a good thing. Our goals will be the same; we want to win our league, defend our district championship and move on from there.”

Overview: With three North Star League Big Dipper division titles in the last three seasons, most of the league’s coaches seem to be in agreement this year: until someone knocks Hillman from the top, the Tigers are the team to beat. Despite graduating four seniors, including Player of the Year Vanessa Schook, the Tigers aren’t lowering their standards. Hillman wants to win and still has a roster with plenty of talent and experience to do it. Look for a big year from Ryba, who averaged 12.2 points last year as Schook’s back court partner. Kuzewski likes his team’s depth and is looking to players like Taratuta, LaFleche, Appelgren and Brooke and Autumn Jones to play key minutes for the Tigers as the season goes along. With other teams nipping at their heels, the Tigers will have to work hard to stay atop the league standings, but Hillman is more than capable of winning another division crown and should expect another solid season.

Atlanta

Last season: 1-19; lost to Hale in district semifinals

Key Players: Brianna Webster, senior, forward/guard; Jordan Kobielus, sophomore, forward/guard; Abby Zajas, junior, forward; Jaycee Barrett, point guard.

Coach Jeremy Kobielus: “It’s going to be a tough year, but what I’m hoping to do is still play on a competitive level and try to ride out the season for the years to come. We’re doing a lot of good things over here and we’re looking for consistency.”

Overview: A new season ushers in another change for the Huskies as Kobelius takes over the program. With a full roster for the first time in several years and a coach who’s coaching Atlanta’s basketball program from the elementary level on up, the Huskies seem to be headed on the right track. Kobelius knows the Huskies are likely to take some lumps this season, but he’s keen on building toward the future and ultimately building consistency. That includes Atlanta’s overall skill level. This season, Atlanta is hoping to get to the foul line more and slowing things down with a focus on getting better quality shots. Jordan Kobelius is in her third year on varsity and Zajas should provide leadership as well. Webster is in her first year playing, but gives the Huskies a presence in the front court as the team’s tallest player.

Alcona

Last season: 14-9; lost to Charlevoix in regional semifinals

Key Players: Taylor Livingston, senior, forward; Abby Lobaugh, senior; Faith Wallenmaier, junior; Megan Grove, sophomore.

Coach Mark Feldhiser: “I think we can expect to be as successful as we were last year. We won districts and that’s the goal again this year.”

Overview: After winning a district title and graduating seven seniors, expectations haven’t changed in Alcona: the Tigers want another district title. Feldhiser is counting on balanced scoring from his lineup to make up for the graduation losses, but the Tigers’ success will start with Livingston. The senior forward averaged 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game last season and is more than capable of posting a double-double every night. Aside from Livingston, Feldhiser likes his team’s depth up front and Alcona will place a premium on getting the ball inside; a hallmark of recent Alcona teams. With Livingston leading the way, the Tigers are hoping to position themselves for another postseason run and play their best basketball late in the year. It worked last year when Alcona went 7-3 in its last 10 games.

Mio

Last season: 6-13; lost to Au Gres in district quarterfinals

Key Players: Karley Auten, senior; Morgan Bruce, senior; Lauren Kuffel, junior; Jordan Butler, junior; Aby DeGrammont, junior.

Coach Cindy Thomey: “I believe fans will see a more athletic, mature team.  Last year we graduated one senior.  This year we have two seniors, five juniors, two sophomores and a freshman.  Most of the juniors have been on the varsity since their freshman year so I have already seen a deeper understanding of what to do in certain circumstances and an increase in physical strength.”

Overview: With Thomey returning for another season as coach, the Thunderbolts are aiming to take another step forward. Mio has a bigger roster this season, with 10 players and should be more athletic than last season. The Thunderbolts graduated their leading scorer from last season, Emily Mangutz, but have plenty of experienced players returning to provide a balanced scoring attack. Look for a big year from Kuffel, who was second on the team in both points and rebounds last season. Mio could see some growing pains early as players adjust to their roles, but improvement from the Thunderbolts’ core of juniors should pay off and could go a long way in determining Mio’s success over the next two seasons.

Rogers City

Last season: 17-6; lost to Hillman in district final

Key Players: Taylor Fleming, junior, forward; Kayla Rabeau, senior, forward; Jayna Hance, junior, point guard; Brooke Daniels, junior, forward.

Coach Duane Pitts: “We have everybody back. We have eight returners, 12 players and I’m pretty sure we can go 12 deep. This year we know each other better and what to expect. I think we’re hard to guard, hard to defend and deeper than last year.”

Overview: With one of the deepest teams in the area, the sky could be the limit for the Hurons this season. Rogers City graduated just four players and returns the bulk of a roster that challenged for a district title last year. Top among those returners are Fleming and Rabeau, who are fresh off a run to the semifinals with the volleyball team and have plenty of big game experience. Fleming nearly averaged a double-double last season at 12.7 points and 9.4 rebounds and Rabeau averaged 11.5 points. The Hurons are well built for the future too and could present matchup problems for many of their opponents. Apart from Fleming and Rabeau, Brooke Daniels and Catheryn Hart could see important minutes up front and Hance returns to lead a capable back court.

Posen

Last season: 9-12; lost to Rogers City in district semifinals

Key Players: Cami LaTulip, senior, forward; Brooke Ciarkowski, junior, guard; Brianna Kuffel, senior, forward; Riley Krajniak, sophomore, guard.

Coach Karl Momrik: “We have everybody back and I’ve never had this many back. We’re cautiously optimistic. We need more scoring, but we’re hoping after last year everyone gained more experience.”

Overview: With more than a half dozen players returning, the Vikings are brimming with experience and eager to finish with a winning record. The Vikings know what they’ve got in Ciarkowski and LaTulip who have seven years of combined experience. LaTulip averaged 12.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game last season and Ciarkowski added 11.7 points per game. Both of them should take a jump up in scoring, but the Vikings will need to find a reliable third scorer; Kuffel, Krajniak and Hannah Stone are among those in the mix. Posen should be the favorite in the North Star League’s Little Dipper division, but Momrik isn’t penciling the Vikings in for anything just yet. The Vikings will get tested right away with three games in four days, but Posen should prove a tough opponent this season with another year of seasoning under its belt.

Oscoda

Last season: 7-14; lost to Johannesburg-Lewiston in district semifinals

Key Players: Katelyn Etherton, junior, guard; Kiah Holmes, sophomore, guard; Lauren Langley, sophomore, forward.

Coach Mark Toppi: “This is my third year. In my first year, we won three games and in my second year, we won seven. (Last year) we were competitive in all of our games into the fourth quarter. This year, we’re hoping to double the wins.”

Overview: The Owls have made steady progress under Toppi and now they’re hoping to take a big step forward in Toppi’s third year. Look for a big year from Etherton who already has two years of varsity experience and has scored 500 points in two seasons. She provides a good 1-2 punch with Langley, who looks poised for a breakout season. Holmes gives the Owls some speed and solid defense to lean on. With just eight players last season, Oscoda counted on those three players for a lot of minutes and now the trio will be tasked with leading a young team with no seniors. If all goes well, the Owls could see continued improvement and prove to be a tough opponent against established teams in the North Star League.

Onaway

Last season: 4-15; lost to Hillman in district semifinals

Key Players: Sammy Pasella, senior, guard; Kennedy Crawford, junior; Zebany Box, junior; Calley Selke, junior.

Coach John George: “I think we’re going to compete. Our conference has some pretty good competition in it. We’re expecting to compete within the conference. Any game is winnable, but we have to work hard.”

Overview: After a 4-15 season, the Cardinals should see a great deal of improvement this year. Onaway doesn’t have much height, so George will have the Cardinals play to their strengths; namely quickness, pressure and an importance on playing in transition. Selke should give the Cardinals a boost of athleticism and Pasella should be an important player for Onaway in her third varsity season. A balanced scoring attack with Crawford and Box contributing should make Onaway competitive. An always tough Ski Valley Conference schedule will test the Cardinals, but they should improve their standing in the conference. They will need to finish better too after losing a handful of games by seven points or less.

Fairview

Last season: 16-7; lost to Onekama in regional semifinals

Key Players: Jaedyn Winton, sophomore, guard/forward; Addison Goy, sophomore, guard/forward; Paige Jenkins, junior, guard/forward.

Coach Marc Winton: “We’re fresh and young. We’ve been talking a lot about expectations and I’ve been trying to let them know this is the year they get to figure everything out.”

Overview: After graduating five seniors, the Eagles are in a bit of a rebuild with a nine-player roster that includes six underclassmen. Winton said this will be a growing and learning year for the Eagles. With that in mind, Winton is keeping expectations reasonable and wants his team to focus on improving rather than worrying about where it will stack up in the North Star League. Jaedyn Winton is Fairview’s only returning starter and will likely be counted on to shoulder the scoring load. Fairview will likely its share of losses this season, but the Eagles should gain valuable experience for next season playing against the North Star League’s best teams.