The Mustangs were 19-6 a season ago and have won at least a share of their respective conference title for the better part of a decade straight. Newell-Fonda has qualified for the State Tournament eight times since 1995, most recently in 2008, 2010 and 2011. With three returning starters and 11 returning letterwinners, a trip back to Des Moines tops the Mustangs' goals this season.
"We are a year older and should be able to build on the growth and strides that we made throughout the season a year ago," said Newell-Fonda head coach Dick Jungers, owner of a 203-47 career record. "Our team worked hard in the off-season to improve ourselves as individuals and as a team. We do have some size and we have guards that can shoot from the outside. Hopefully, we can grow with our chemistry and continue to improve throughout the season."
Leading the Mustang returnees will be junior point guard Renee Maneman, who led the team basically across the board in nearly every statistical category. Maneman averaged 15.2 points per night on 58% shooting. She knocked down 50 three's at a 47% rate and added 5.0 assists, 3.1 steals and 4.2 rebounds.
The Mustangs also return their two starting forwards in junior Claudia Larsen and senior Andrea Christensen. Larsen averaged 5.9 points and 5.6 rebounds and Christensen 9.5 points and 5.1 rebounds. Larsen added 47 blocks and both had 45 steals on the season.
N-F also brings back eight other girls who saw action in 10 or more varsity contests last year as they return juniors Marianna Overgaard (1.8ppg, 2.8rpg), Taiyler Schrank (4.8ppg), Jade Hess (2.0ppg), Abby Christensen (1.4ppg), Missy Morenz (1.4ppg) and Haley Voss and sophomores Brianna Wells (5.0ppg) and Hailey Falline (1.8ppg). Senior Tayler Lago (1.7ppg, 1.5 rpg) also figures to contribute after seeing action in all but one game for Estherville-Lincoln Central a season ago.
"We have improved our speed, and our strength with the offseason work outs as well as having one more year of experience," said Jungers. "We are continually learning to play at a higher level and our kids really love to play basketball. I love our work ethic, and I think our kids are determined to keep getting better. We have a lot of really good basketball players in our program. It will be interesting to see which kids make those strides to earn playing time throughout the season."
As far as areas for improvement, Jungers eyes consistency.
"We need to make sure that we come to play every night," he said. "There were nights a year ago where our youth and inexperience showed. We had nights where we just did not play that great together. Other concerns will be to see who will step up and fill in the roles that we need filled to be a better team. When we need a big play, we need to have a variety of players willing to step up and to make those plays."
Offensively, the pieces are in place for another well-rounded N-F attack after averaging the third highest total in 1A last season at 64 points per game.
"We will have a variety of options to go to in key situations," said Jungers. "It is nice to know that we will be able to go to different players depending on the situation. We can go inside or we can go outside. We have a lot of kids that can knock down shots so that will give us opportunities to score at moments when we need a basket. We will have a lot more flexibility with our line up as we have a variety of skilled players that can and will step up for us throughout the season."
As they have done consistently in the past, the Mustangs will play up a class or two often in the regular season in hopes of reaping the benefits come playoff time.
"The difficulty of our schedule should help prepare us for a variety of situation as we only play a few 1A schools," said Jungers. "We will be tested because of the many challenging teams that we will face throughout the season."
Jungers sees execution on a nightly basis and defending their home court as the keys to another conference title in 2012-2013.
"In order for us to compete for the conference title, we will need to keep getting better," he said. "We will have to dictate the style of play and we will need people to step up and knock down open shots when they become available. Our conference will be challenging and every game is going to be important if you want to have a chance to win it. Generally, the team that holds its home court, and wins the winnable games on the road, will be in contention for winning conference. It will be up to our kids to be ready every night to earn us that opportunity. Our conference will have a lot of parity. Sioux Central, Manson, East Sac and South Central Calhoun all have very good teams coming back. Poky, Prarie Valley, Laurens-Marathon, Alta-Aurelia, Southeast Webster and St. Mary's will be much improved from a year ago."
The Mustangs begin regular season action on Tuesday night in Spencer. Fans can catch an early glimpse of the team Saturday at the girls jamboree in Storm Lake.