Four returning senior starters will provide leadership and anchor the Marion girls? basketball team this season, as the Warriors try to improve upon last season?s 5-16 record under second-year coach Kelly Robson.
The four senior starters are Katey Ehrlich, Megan Richmond, Kaelyn Thierolf and Kelli Hess.
?I would imagine they?ll start again this year as seniors,? Robson said. ?I?d have to say that hasn?t really been set yet, but chances are pretty good they will.?
Ehrlich, a 5-foot, 6-inch guard, was charged last season with ball-handling duties, but Robson anticipates a different role this year.
?This year Kirsten Hansen, who?s a sophomore, is probably going to be our primary ball-handler, and so it?ll take a little bit of that stress away from Katey,? Robson said. ?I think Katey may be able to raise her scoring each game because she?s got a little less of the other duties.
?Katey?s also a fine rebounder, even though she plays a guard position. She?s just a solid, all-around player.?
Richmond (5-7) returns after leading the Warriors in rebounding last season.
?A main thing I?ll expect from (Megan) is good rebounding,? Robson said. ?I think she has a little more ability to score than she showed last year.
?I guess for all these senior girls, I?m just hoping they?ll step up every part of their game?a few more rebounds, a few more points every night.?
Thierolf, at 5-9, brings some height to the team.
?Kaelyn is one of our taller players,? Robson said. ?She can score, both inside and outside. She probably scored more points from 10 feet and beyond than she did really close because she can shoot the ball from the outside.
?As one of the taller players this year, we?re going to have to ask her to stay a little closer to the basket and try to do more damage from in there. She?ll be a good solid player.?
Hess (5-6) brings outside scoring capability.
?I?ve really been impressed with Kelli this volleyball season,? Robson said. ?She?s playing with more confidence. Last year, she got herself in a spot a few times when she almost looked scared to do anything. It doesn?t appear that?s going to be an issue for her this year.
?(Kelli is) a nice outside shooter. When she?s open, she can make those three-pointers.?
Robson looks for leadership from these seniors.
?I?m really excited about the leadership those four girls are going to give,? he said. ?They?ve needed to be a big part of this program for four years. They played quite a bit as freshmen, and so this is their fourth year really playing a lot of basketball.
?I hope they can help the younger girls come along like you?d hope your seniors will do.?
Sophomore Kirsten Han?sen (5-4) saw varsity playing time as a freshman and will have increased ball-handling duties this year.
?Kirsten is going to need to be a really good ball-handler for us, and she?s a good defender,? Robson said. ?She?ll get steals here and there.?
Robson said he thinks Hansen will be the Warriors? fifth starter, but will see how things go in practice before deciding.
At 5-11, junior Julia Hall is the tallest member on the team and is expected to contribute.
?She?ll be one of our few tall players,? Robson said. ?I don?t anticipate her starting just yet, but she?ll definitely be one in the mix coming off the bench.?
With a large group of sophomores, Robson sees potential for many of them to vie for playing time off the bench.
?It?s a big class of girls that?s been out for basketball,? he said. ?Again, depending upon how the early practices go, any of those girls could be out there contributing at the varsity level.?
Those contributions will be crucial.
?Whether the young kids can come along and contribute the minutes we need them to is going to be the key to our successful season,? Robson said.
Height will again be a challenge for the Warriors this season.
?Most teams don?t have three 6-footers or something like that,? Robson said. ?But we are giving up 3 or 4 inches on almost every position to a lot of teams.
?Now that doesn?t have to keep us from winning, but in basketball it?s kind of a tough deal. We?ll do the best we can.?
To combat the height challenge, Robson said his team will work to increase its court speed.
Defending the basket may pose a challenge also.
?Probably the bigger challenge is going to be defensively, can we keep the ball out of the post, and can we rebound when they shoot and miss?? Robson said. ?That?s just going to be the question.?
Robson listed senior leadership as a strength.
?Those four girls have been very positive,? he said. ?Good leadership from them is going to be important.?
Team chemistry, quickness on the court and overall athleticism are additional strengths for the upcoming season.
?We?ll be a little more athletic this year,? Robson said. ?We lost some height from the senior class that graduated, but we gain some speed and athleticism in the kids that are going to replace them.?
Robson anticipates building knowledge of the game, something that has potential to be a strength as well.
?I found a few times last year where we didn?t understand very well what was happening to us,? Robson said. ?We?ve got a smart team, but basketball smarts and regular smarts are sometimes different things. If we can gain in our basketball knowledge, that will be a strength for us also.?
Robson said teams to watch in the Heart of America league include Moundridge, Remington and Ell-Saline.
As for Marion, Robson said: ?I think we?re in the mix for the middle of the league there. I hope we are.?
Robson is excited for the upcoming season.
?Five wins last year was more than they had the year before that,? he said. ?I?m hoping we can get more wins than five, but I don?t want to base my definition of success solely on wins and losses.
?If I see improvement in them, and we win the same number of games?or fewer games but we?ve really improved in some things? I?ve got to say that?s a successful season.?
Marion will open its season at home Friday against Southeast of Saline.