Seventh-year Wood River High School girls' basketball coach Brent Carnduff is excited about his 2006-07 varsity squad that opens its 18-game season Tuesday, Nov. 14, at home against the Filer Wildcats.
"I think we'll be a much improved team," said Carnduff (63-72), whose young varsity with just two seniors lost 20 of its 22 games last winter. "The younger kids went through some beatings. But it's nice to have experience. We'll bring back more this year and we should be more competitive."
Filer should be competitive as well in Tuesday's season opener. The Wildcats had only one senior on last winter's squad that came on strong at the end of the season and ended 9-14. Two seasons ago, Filer was 20-3 and placed third in the State 3A girls' tournament.
In contrast, Wood River will be trying to reverse a trend of the past two seasons and also finish strong. The Wolverines have averaged only 30.0 ppg on offense for two seasons in a row and have surrendered 48.0 ppg. They lost eight straight to end last season, and 12 of 13 to end the previous campaign.
But the Wolverine girls worked hard in the off-season.
Carnduff, who has welcomed four seniors and six returning varsity players among the 21 girls playing basketball, said, "We played 33 games last June between our local tournaments and our trip to Oregon for a team camp and tournament."
Question marks for Wood River include team quickness and the ability of its guards to handle defensive pressure, the coach said. Wolverine strengths are inside rebounding and power scoring centered around 6-3 junior post Lauren Morgenthaler (10.9 ppg).
"We're a little taller this year on varsity. Really, nobody in the league can match up inside with us," said Carnduff.
He added, "Lauren has gotten much stronger positionally and in catching the ball. She'll be a bigger part of our fast break, and we're counting on her to finish strong around the basket. She really came on in summer ball. We're looking forward to a break-out season."
The four varsity seniors include two guards, 5-5 Jordan Scanlon and 5-5 Kristen Miniard (7.5 ppg and 33 of her team;s 41 3-pointers).
"Jordan has a nice all-around game and Kristen is our best outside threat," said Carnduff. "They'll alternate between the #1 and #2 guard positions."
Wing/post Casey Vegwert and wing LeighAndra Roberts are the other two varsity seniors. Carnduff said, "Casey is probably our toughest defender. LeighAndra is very quick and probably our best at taking the ball to the basket."
Besides Morgenthaler, the other juniors are 5-11 guard/wing Hannah Ward and 5-6 wing/post Tasha Karst.
Ward's ability to hit the mid-range jumper will help Wood River against zone defenses, Carnduff said. She is athletic and a good passer, too. Karst isn't that tall for a post player, but she's strong and has a good touch underneath, he added.
Sophomore Sam Engel, an outstanding fast-pitch softball pitcher on a winning team, is a 5-10 post who should complement Morgenthaler. "Sam is very physical and strong in the post. She's a tough defender and has a great attitude. Sam will rotate in for Lauren and will also give us two posts against zones," said Carnduff.
Two varsity newcomers provide quickness—5-4 sophomore guard Allie Freund and 5-2 freshman guard Alex Lindbloom. Both are good defenders. Freund anticipates well and is good with the ball. Lindbloom is feisty and "gives us speed," the coach said.
Carnduff expects the defending Great Basin Conference champion Burley Bobcats (22-4, third place at state) to be the class of the four-team Great Basin West league once again.
Burley returns many players including Great Basin West "Player of the Year" Jessica Brice, now a 5-10 senior, and All-League first-teamer Nicole Tolman, a 5-10 junior. League runner-up Jerome (16-10), a 38-37 loser to Burley in the Great Basin West title game, is returning many All-Stars, too.
On the Wolverine junior varsity coached by Trudy Weaver are 11 players including junior Chelsea Broadie and five sophomores—Shelby Grubbs, Nicole Fisher, Angela Coleman, Hannah Gustafson and Mackenzie Brown.
The freshmen on junior varsity are Grace Lagodich, Monica Garceau, Ellen Johnson, Ashley Hesteness and Kelly Chapman. Weaver's JV assistant is former Wolverine player Ashley Washburn.
Lack of ninth-grade players caused the cancelation of the normal freshman season.
Carnduff, who is assisted by Katie Oneida again on varsity, said, "It is a young and athletic junior varsity and we're excited about the season."