There will be some new faces this season among Lakes Conference girls basketball teams, and the Storm Lake High girls hope to take advantage of that, according to SLHS coach Stacey VanDerSloot.
The Tornadoes lost two key starters to graduation, including speedy off-guard Molly Daniels and reliable post player Chelsea Anderson.
But they'll return three senior starters, including off-guard Mel Fisher, guard Anna Paulsen and post player Amy Sennert.
According to VanDerSloot, this year's team will lack overall height and bulk, but it should be able to make up for that with great quickness and athletic ability.
"Aggressive is probably the key word for us this season," VanDerSloot said. "We'll want to get the ball up and down the court on offense, and score that way, and outside shooting will also be key for us."
Though the Tornadoes lack great depth, VanDerSloot plans to play aggressive defenses, utilizing full and half court trapping presses.
"We want to use our great quickness on defense, and we might not be able to use a full-court press for long stretches of the game because of our lack of depth, but we'll use a lot of trapping halfcourt defenses," she said.
The Tornadoes are coming off an 11-11 season in which they outscored opponents by an average of 52.8 points per game to 52.6.
VanDerSloot says most teams in the league lost at least a few key seniors.
"There will be a lot of new faces and it will be interesting to see how it turns out," VanDerSloot said. "But this year won't change a lot in terms of the competitiveness of the conference.
"Last year, most of the conference games were close and it should be the same thing this season."
In 2003-2004, Anderson was the Tornadoes leading scorer, averaging 12.6 points per game. Daniels, an outstanding three-point shooter, averaged 9.4 points per game and was one of the conference leaders in steals.
Meanwhile, versatility and athleticism will mark the three returning starters this season.
Last winter, Fisher was the Tornadoes' second leading scorer, averaging 12 points per game and was also the team's leading rebounder (8 per game).
According to VanDerSloot, Fisher's role will be much the same this year. She'll play both inside and outside, where she'll be a threat to score from both areas of the court and rebound as well.
Sennert is a 5-10 post player who, though not a physical player, will be looked to by the team to both rebound and score. She averaged seven points per game last year and four boards per game.
"We'll look for Amy to increase her scoring to double figures this season," added VanDerSloot. "She's good offensively, with a nice soft touch on a jump shot from about 10-12 feet."
Paulsen, a 5-3 guard, will be the team's defensive ace this year, taking the place of Daniels.
"We'll put Anna on the opposition's toughest player; she's very quick defensively," the coach said. "And in practice so far, Anna has shown an ability to hit the three-point shot. She worked hard on that during the offseason."
Sharing another post position, VanDerSloot said, will be 5-11 forward Heather Henrich and 5-8 forward Kristan Erskine. Also, junior guard Beth Bjorkgren will be in the mix and has a strong ability to hit the three point shot. Last year on the SLHS JV, she set a new school mark with 50 three-pointers.
Also expected to see significant playing time is 5-6 junior guard/forward Heidi Hammen. An outstanding all-around athlete, Hammen is also a versatile player.
VanDerSloot is especially enthused about the abilities of sophomore guard Katie Overturf. She'll give the Tornadoes that aggressiveness VanDerSloot is looking for.
"Katie is battling for a starting position," the coach said. "She is great at driving to the basket and a very quick defensive player."
Several sophomores will be looking to contribute off the bench, including guard Amy Berg, forward Kata Harvey, forward Lindsey Guenther and guard Julie Manatham.
VanDerSloot said her team hasn't set any concrete goals yet so early in the season, but she knows what her team will have to do in each game.
"I'm confident that we'll hold opponents to under 50 points per game," she said. "So offensively, we'll have to score 50 or hopefully more to win."
She added that LeMars and Cherokee might be the early favorites for a Lakes Conference crown.
"Of the teams in the conference," she said, "those teams probably had the fewest losses to graduation."