With eight players lost to graduation, the Kenyon-Wanamingo girls basketball team is going to look starkly different this winter.
Included in those eight departures are all five of last year’s starters and all but one of the primary players from the rotation of last year’s team that finished 8-17 and lost in the first round of the Section 1AA tournament.
The one returner, sophomore guard Tessa Erlandson, will be joined by a group of players that had success last year on the junior varsity team but were blocked for varsity playing time by last year’s seniors.
“With our girls being probably new to the varsity basketball experience and gathering and gaining that experience, a shortened season might be good for them as they get accustomed to it and learning it,” K-W girls basketball coach Jake Wieme said. “I know a lot of these same girls were playing volleyball, so they were starting to learn about the varsity level vs. the JV level.”
That season is now slated to start Jan. 4, the first date practices are allowed by the Minnesota State High School League. Games are possibly allowed to begin Jan. 14, although no official designation for the start of competition has yet been announced.
While the final details are still hazy, Wieme is looking forward to an opportunity to play any type of season this winter to make up for lost practice sessions this summer.
“We didn’t have much during the summer, just like most schools, so just getting back into the swing of things and having a chance to play,” Wieme said. “If we were to go a whole other year, it would be weird for everybody.”
Last year, Erlandson came off the bench to contribute a handful of points per game. This year, she’ll be much more of a focus of the offense, and will be joined in the varsity rotation by senior Madison Greseth, juniors Julia Dahl, Stella Rechtzigel and Emma Crouse, and sophomore Josi Quam.
Since summer workouts were limited to a handful of open gyms in the few weeks the MSHSL allowed teams to practice, the rest of the varsity team is still a relative unknown that will need to be parsed out quickly in January once practice starts.
Based on last year’s JV results, Wieme believes there’s talent available to fill out this year’s varsity roster, but the best way to figure that out will be watching them in varsity action.
“They had a very good JV season last year, and I thought they did some really nice things,” Wieme said. “To see them at that next level and competing with the best of the best is what we’re hoping to do. I’m very excited to get in a little bit of a season. It’s been a weird season up to this point, but I’m very excited for it and I hope the girls are as well.”