2019-20 RECORD: 22-5 overall, 12-2 Gopher (T-1st)
LAST GAME: 62-58 loss to Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial in Section 2AA subsection semifinals.
How do you replace around 5,000 career points spread among four different players?
Medford head coach Mark Kubat faces that task after the Tigers graduated the school’s leading scorer in Emma Kniefel, point guard Kiley Nihart, who averaged 13.4 points per game, Izzy Reuvers, who averaged 10 points a game and Alorah Wiese, who scored 4.5 points a game.
Kniefel now plays at Gustavus Adolphus College, Nihart went to Rochester Community and Technical College to play volleyball and Reuvers chose to play softball at Gustavus.
The good news is Kubat has senior post Katie Dylla returning after she scored 9.8 points a game, pulled down 9.6 rebounds a contest and shot 50.5% from the field to earn all-conference honorable mention. Additionally, Medford, which finished with a 22-5 record following a 62-58 loss to Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial in the Section 2AA subsection semifinals, returns Clara Kniefel, who came off the bench against Dover-Eyota to score 15 points after playing a half of the junior varsity team.
Jenna Berg, Booke Purrier and Lily Roehrick return as senior captains set to defend their back-to-back Gopher Conference championships. Kubat called Berg, who averaged 4.9 points a game and shot 37.5% on 3s, the team’s purest shooter, Purrier a pain in the butt defender and Roehrick a savvy post player. Bella Steffen will likely play center for the Tigers while Mackenzie Kellen will contribute, too.
Kubat said the offense will show some new wrinkles and more movement to rotate the ball through to open shooters.
Waterville-Elysian-Morristown shared the conference title with Medford last season and remains a top candidate to claim the title again this season with its core of key contributors returning. Blooming Prairie finished with a 10-4 mark in the conference and returns Megan Oswald and Bobbie Bruns. Oswald recently committed to NAIA school University of Jamestown for basketball and Bruns averaged 13.4 points a game. Kubat also pointed to New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva as a team to watch with standouts Sophie Stork and Sidney Schultz returning. Stork averaged 17.9 points and 8 rebounds as a sophomore last season. Schultz scored 15.6 points a game, averaged 4.3 rebounds a game and 4.2 assists a contest.
As far as the section goes, coaches have pointed to Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial as a section title contender after reaching the semifinals and everyone returning. Waseca graduated its top three players but will still compete behind its reliably stingy defense. Coaches have also named Fairmont as a team to watch in the section and NRHEG.
“Everytime you step out there you’re going to have to be ready,” Kubat said. “They know what we need to do. We’re going to be competitive, and we’re going to fight.”
Medford met once a week during the coaching waiver period to practice but missed out on the annual summer league it participates in after it got canceled. The Tigers did get to scrimmage Zumbrota-Mazeppa, though, but many teams did not have the same chance.