MANKATO — The element of surprise was on the side of the Mankato Loyola girls basketball team last season. That’s not likely to happen in 2013-14.
Most girls basketball aficionados assumed the Crusaders would be good last season, and they were. But given their youth, those same fans figured the team was probably a year away from making a serious postseason run.
Loyola arrived a year earlier than expected, however, rolling to the Section 2A championship before losing in the first round of the state tournament 59-49 to Win-E-Mac. Loyola finished the year at 26-4.
This season the Crusaders return as the team to beat in Section 2A, and they say they’re ready.
“We won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year,” Loyola senior Aunikah Bastian said. “Everybody’s going to prepare as hard as they can when they play us, and we’re going to have to be ready.”
Teammate Jordyn Theuninck agreed: “We’re probably going to have a target on our backs this year, but that just means we’ll have to work harder. What we did last year doesn’t mean anything. We have to earn whatever we get all over again this year.”
Most of last year’s Loyola squad returns intact. Post Alyssa Mettler has graduated, but Annie Nawrocki got a lot of playing time at that position last season and comes in as the starter this winter.
Helping the senior Nawrocki (5-foot-11) out at the post will be junior Lexy Clow (5-10) and Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial transfer Megan Schroeder (5-9). The junior Schroeder is not quite as tall as the other two but jumps well and brings a lot of experience to the squad.
“We’re definitely going to miss Alyssa,” Nawrocki said. “We called ourselves B-squared last year (for the two Beasts) because we took pride in our defense and rebounding. But Megan has fit right in, and Lexy is going to get more minutes, too.”