With the departure of seven seniors from the Class of 2020, the Royalton girls basketball team, which went 23-6 last year, including a deep Section 6AA playoff run, will include a number of fresh faces.
“It will be a tall task improving on what we achieved last year. Last year’s seniors had been playing on the varsity for many years and our record books are filled with their names, so being able to replace and improve on what they did as seniors will be tough,” said Royals head coach Brad Baumann. “Our group this year is basically a whole new crew and will be looking to carve out their own legacy. Our biggest issue to start will be experience and learning to play together. We believe we have a lot of talent and potential, but learning to use it and show it will be a key factor.”
Senior captains Amanda Waletski and Aubrey Krueger both return with varsity experience, along with junior Autumn Schoenrock and sophomore Mya Yourczek.
Also, Royalton picked up Kylie Waytashek, who played varsity the last two seasons as a seventh and eighth grader. The freshman moved into the district and Baumann said she “will bring much valued varsity experience and skill to the line-up.”
He also expects JV players from a year ago, Micaila Lenz, Blair Tschida, Shelby Hovland, Callie Vannurden, Ella Sliter and sophomore Mya Wolbeck to all compete for varsity time.
That lack of experience is what Baumann said will be the Royals’ weakness, especially early on in the season.
However, one thing is abundant for Royalton — height.
“The past four years we were blessed to have 6-4 Jenna Anderson patrolling the paint, giving us size inside, but outside of her, we were not overall tall. This year we could be looking at having multiple six-footers in the line-up and our guards will be tall as well,” Baumann said. “While last year we had some quickness in our line-up, we believe we’ll actually be a little quicker all around this year, which is exciting because it fits the style of play we like to use.”
Along with the loss of the strong 2020 senior class, the Royals are also struggling with losing practice time due to the COVID delay, and all of the protocols that are in place to keep everyone safe.
“The biggest challenges I see when dealing with COVID is trying to make sure we stay healthy and are smart about not getting into a situation where we have an outbreak. Masks are going to be a huge challenge, trying to play with a mask on is going to be a very big adjustment for the girls and I’m hoping it doesn’t cause issues,” Baumann said. “I know coaching in a mask is going to be a challenge for myself as well. But when it’s all said and done I’m just happy and excited for the girls to have an opportunity to play and not lose a season like what happened to spring sports last year.”
Royalton’s season kicks off with a home game against Central Minnesota Conference foe, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Thursday.
“In regards to our conference, we always believe the Central Minnesota Conference is one of the best small conference basketball competition around,” Baumann said. “There are a lot of good teams that are good enough to make deep runs in their sections or even state tournaments.”
In the section (6AA), Baumann said Albany will be far and away the favorite again. The Huskies knocked out the Royals in the section semifinals a year ago, 56-49.
Section champion Sauk Centre will also likely be tough, despite graduating a number of seniors according to Baumann.
Holdingford is also a conference, area and section foe for the Royals.
Huskers return several
starters from historic season
After a 22-win campaign in 2019-20, the Holdingford girls basketball team returns a number of experienced players in 2020-21.
Five senior captains lead the way: Danielle Lyon, Kendra Gerads, Lydia Hoikka, Paige Paulzine and Jaden Breth.
Freshmen Makenna Hohbein and Maddy Mitchell along with eighth grader Addy Pilarski will all look to make the jump to being varsity contributors according to Holdingford coach Aaron Bring.
“As always we will focus on our defense to lead us. We will look to build upon a fast paced offense that had success with last season. It will be important for us to close out and win important games this season,” Bring said. “One of our biggest strengths this season will be our experience mixed with some young talent. We also have a lot of team speed and athleticism. We have a lot of versatile players that can play multiple positions.”
Bring hopes he and the Huskers can bring a conference title home for the first time since 1992.
“We are extremely excited to be able to get back on the court playing basketball. We have been doing virtual workouts and practices for the past five weeks to prepare for the season,” Bring said. “This year will look different from a normal year in a lot of ways. Discipline and resiliency will need to be key points of emphasis for our team.”
Holdingford starts its season with a home game against Albany, Friday.