By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
Last season, many of the Mankato West girls basketball players were getting their first action on varsity, and the result was an 8-19 record.
With more confidence and experience, and a new head coach, the Scarlets are feeling good about showing improvement this season.
“We have a lot of energy that we didn’t have last year,” senior Kenzie Franke said. “The whole team has been more positive.”
West opens the season on Tuesday at Faribault, led by new coach Kristin Krusemark, who has been an assistant in the West program for the last two seasons.
“We’ve had a lot of positive energy in the gym,” Krusemark said. “The girls are excited. I think it’s a fresh start for everyone.”
The Scarlets are led by senior forward Cara Christiansen, who averaged 17.9 points and 14.5 rebounds. Krusemark said that Christiansen has been working to expand her game, from a back-to-the-basket post player to one with more shooting range that can beat defenders off the dribble.
“She’s played a lot of ball over the summer and open gym,” Krusemark said. “She’s ready to go.”
Wings Franke and Malorie Veroeven are the other seniors on the team. Franke averaged 6.1 points and 4.7 rebounds and led the team with 32 3-pointers. Veroeven averaged 5.6 points and 5.6 rebounds.
“I think it’s important that everyone gets involved in the offense,” Franke said.
Other returning players are junior center Lauren Resner, who averaged 3.8 points and 6.3 rebounds; freshman guard Lexi Schoper, who averaged 5.7 points, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals; and sophomore guard Sarah Buryska, who averaged 0.5 points and 2.0 rebounds.
“The younger girls have really been stepping up,” Franke said. “We lost some seniors that didn’t come out this year, but the younger girls have filled in. They’re not intimidated.”
Krusemark said she’s still trying to find some depth, but she’s been happy with the team’s work ethic. She thinks the team defense and a fast-paced style will lead to better results.
“We have a strong 1-2 punch with Cara and Lexi,” Krusemark said. “We need to have some other girls step up. A lot of these girls played (junior-varsity) ball last year.”
Franke said the goals are to have a winning record and finish in the top half of the Big Nine Conference. For that to happen, she said, the Scarlets will need to work together, stay positive and lean on better team chemistry.
“The coaches have high expectations for us,” she said. “And being my last year, I really want to have a positive ending.”