The Goessel girls faced a big enough challenge this season with the departure of four starters from a team that finished 11-9 overall and 6-5 in the Heart of America League.
But when returning all-state senior Kendra Flaming went down for the season with a knee injury, the challenge for coach Ryan Hoopes and his 2010-11 squad became even more formidable.
“Others will need to step up quickly,” said Hoopes, in his fourth season with the Bluebirds. “It will be interesting to see who fills those spots.”
Heading his list of candidates are three returning letter-winners: senior Shanna Klassen, a 5-foot, 7-inch post player; senior Jennifer Van Horn, a 5-10 guard and post; and sophomore Johanna Hoffman, a 5-6 guard.
Others competing for time are Jessica Harvey, a 5-5 sophomore guard, Aimee Flaming, a 5-3 junior guard, and transfer Samantha Jarvis, a 5-10 junior post player.
“The Bluebirds are not very big in numbers, but have a solid group of girls who will work hard every day,” Hoopes said.
“One of the upsides to the Bluebirds is the outstanding leadership they have from their upper classmen,” he added. “The girls that are returning have great chemistry working together. This group has the ability to surprise a lot of teams this year.”
Aside from its starting lineup, another new component to this season is the Bluebirds’ league home. Goessel joins Hope, Little River, Centre, Elyria Christian, Peabody-Burns, Solomon, Wakefield and White City in the newly formed Wheat State League.
Hoopes sees Little River, Hope and Elyria finishing in the upper tier of the WSL, Peabody-Burns, Goessel and Solomon in the middle of the pack, and Wakefield, White City and Centre in the lower tier.
After opening the 2010-11 season Friday at home against Inman, Goessel will host the Bluebird Classic Dec. 6-11. The six-team field includes Hutchinson Central Christian, Burrton, Elyria, Canton-Galva and Little River.
The GHS girls will make their first appearance in the tournament at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday against Central Christian in the junior high gym.