Rugby girls hope to build on success
The Rugby’s girls basketball team is looking to use last season’s surprising finish as a springboard.
The Panthers finished the runner-up at the Region 6 Tournament last season, and are looking to pick up where they left off.
“We lost six seniors but we bring a good nucleus back,” Rugby head coach Jennifer Brossart said. “We return two-time all-district and all-region player Aubrey Hovland and a lot of our youth from last year.”
While seniors Hovland and Laura Fritel will provide leadership and experience, freshmen Taylor Wangerin and Shea Heidlebaugh represent the youth that Brossart expects to give the team a spark.
“We have two freshmen who started a lot of games last year as eighth-graders,” Brossart said. “They’re going to more than likely be in that role this year.”
As the only true post player on the team, Wangerin, at 6-foot-3, is expected to play a large role.
“She’s going to be looked upon as taking on quite a big role,” Brossart said. “She handled it well as an eighth-grader. Even though she’s only 14, she’s going to be asked to step up and fill some big shoes.”
Brossart said Heidlebaugh, 5-7, got into the lineup last year and should continue to develop and gain confidence this year.
“She’s really ready to roll with it,” Brossart said.
With Wangerin as the only post, the Panthers are expected to get up and down the floor.
“We’ve got a great nucleus of our scoring back so I feel like we’re going to be in good shape to start the season,” Brossart said. “This year we’ll be known for an uptempo game. We’re going to be lacking in size, something we’ve had an appreciation for the last few years. This year we’re going to lose some size. We’re going to have to make up for that in tenacity on the defensive end.”
Fritel, at 5-10, could make an impact if she stays healthy.
“She struggled with injuries last year,” Brossart said. “I think if she can stay healthy it’s going to help our post game.”
Hovland said the young players will get plenty of opportunities this season.
“With the number of girls we have it’s going to be easy to get reps in,” she said. “We only have 15 girls out and everyone’s going to get a lot of playing time. With the group of girls we have, they work so hard, so it’s easy to get things done in practice and fun to work with them.”
Brossart pointed to junior Alli Volk and sophomore Darby Deckert as two players who should also be contributors.
“Volk can hit the outside shot, but needs to be more consistent on her drives to the basket,” she said. “Deckert is a sneaky ballplayer, she maneuvers around and gets rebounds, she’s just a great all-around basketball player.”
Brossart pointed to Velva as the team returning the most experience in District 11 and said Bottineau, TGU and Dunseith should also contend for top spots in the district.
In the region, Bishop Ryan, which won the region title last year, will be the team to beat. After trailing the Lions by single digits entering the final quarter of last season’s regional title game, Brossart said the team knows it can play with the state’s best.
“Last year having ended our regular season with a 44-turnover game and turning around and winning five in a row, these girls know they can do it,” Brossart said. “They know they were one quarter away of possibly visiting the state tournament. Success breeds success, these girls have tasted it and they’re hungry for more.”