The Grant County girls basketball team won't be surprising anyone this season.
The Coyotes won their first District 9 tournament championship after entering the postseason as the No. 4 seed. They went on to place second behind Washburn in the Region 5 tournament.
This season, Grant County is tabbed as a district and region favorite. It returns four starters, including second-team all-stater Ashley Bentz. Bentz, a junior, averaged 22.2 points,
7.9 rebounds, 6 assists, 3.9 steals and 1.8 blocks per game.
Also returning to the starting lineup are Sydney Bentz (8.9 ppg,
4.4 rpg, 2.8 apg), Chelsey Lince (7.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg) and Elesha Tatro
(5.3 ppg, 1.4 rpg). Kayla Seidler, Kaci Levorsen and Ashley Werner were the top reserves.
"The expectations are much higher this year, and that means we have to work harder to meet those expectations," Grant County coach Nicole Bentz said. "We were a young team, and we made some big strides. We got to the region championship game. ... We got a taste of it. We want to take it a step further."
New Salem-Almont, which earned the top seed in the district last season, has four starters back. Emily Wolf, a
5-foot-11 senior post, averaged 14.9 points and 11.9 rebounds. She injured a knee during the summer and sat out the volleyball season. NS-A coach Jerome Slag said Wolf has been practicing, but isn't 100 percent.
"Our plan is to get her some playing time during the first two weeks of the season and have her at full strength in January," Slag said. "The main thing is to make her confident that the knee is repaired.
"She's our best player," he continued. "She's quick, strong, a good rebounder and an excellent shot blocker. She has also added an outside shot."
Other returning regulars are Karlie Schroeder (10.8 ppg, 5 rpg, 64 assists and 81 steals), Timarra Klingenstein (5 ppg,
4.4 rpg) and Sierra Henke (8.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg,
70 assists). Destri Bueligen, Rebecca Valleroy and Karly Doll also have varsity experience.
"We are looking to push the teams in our district and region and try to make a lot of noise in February and March," Slag said.
Shiloh Christian went from 2-19 in 2009-10 to 12-11 last season. Three starters are back - junior guard Paige Emmel (17.4 ppg), junior guard-forward McKayla Forness (13.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and senior forward Kelly Schindler (11.5 ppg,
Solen has its sights set on improving on last season's 5-16 record. Chances are it will, with five returning starters.
Kayana Two Shields averaged 12 points per game; Voshawn Red Bear 8, Robyn Silk 7, Kendra Eagle 5 and Kaitlyn White Shield 4. Silk also led the Sioux in rebounding
Top returning letterwinners for Flasher are McKenna Schmidt
(5.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg), Arika Schick (3.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 45 assists) and Ashley Friesz (3.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg).
Standing Rock will rebuild after a successful run with three-time all-state player Shauna Long and Ryan White Bull. The top returning letterwinner is Jaimie Archambault (6 ppg, 4 rpg).
Center-Stanton, 2-19 last season, will put the district's youngest team on the court. The Wildcats have just one senior - KaDee Berger
(5.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg). The other nine returners are sophomores or younger. Sophomore Ashley Vitek (7.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg) also is a returning starter.
Washburn returns two starters and a top reserve from last season's Class B state tournament entry - senior guard Spanky Clayton, who averaged 16 points per game and contributed
74 steals and 96 assists, and 5-10 junior post Kennedy Retterath, who averaged 8 points and 6 rebounds. Senior Cori Moberg (4.1 ppg) was the first player off the bench.
A young Underwood team has just one senior -Taylor Sorensen, who averaged 5 points and
8 rebounds per game. Other letterwinners include sophomore Abby Landenberger, who led the Comets in scoring
Turtle Lake-Mercer-McClusky has three starters back from a 2010-11 team that went 12-10 - Chloe Bayless (10 ppg, 6 rpg), Jacy Hausauer (6 ppg, 10 rpg) and Sabrina Rust (8 ppg, 3 rpg). Bayless will be sidelined at least until January because of an ear injury.
Taylor Fylling, Chazlynn Sondrol and Haley Zinke all saw action off the bench.
Whitney Huesers is the top returner for the Max Cossacks.
The 5-6 senior averaged 15 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists last season.
Seniors Heather Johnson (4 ppg, 2 rpg) and Jess Stumvoll (4 ppg, 4.5 rpg) lead a Garrison team that will be trying to improve on last season's 5-17 record.
Top returning players for Wilton-Wing are Ally Heck (5.6 ppg, 4 rpg), Heidi Clausen (5.4 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 spg), and Jocelyn Berquist (6.2 ppg, 2 rpg, 3 spg).