Basketball is a numbers game for the McDonell girls team.
The Macks utilized a deep and talented roster a season ago to post a 22-4 record overall, finishing within an eyelash of the program’s first conference title since the late 1980s while claiming a Division 5 regional championship.
This season McDonell returns many players from that team that will serve as the foundation for a squad that wants to play fast.
“The attitude, the work ethic. Everything is there,” McDonell coach Don Cooper said of his team.
Senior guard Megan Baier averaged 5.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists per contest last season on her way to second team All-Chippewa County and honorable mention All-Western Cloverbelt Conference accolades. Senior forward Abby Opsal (7 PPG, 5.4 RPG) was an all-county honorable mention while junior guard Abby Wampler (6.7 PPG), senior guard Grace Mrozinski (2.4 PPG), senior center Olivia Kressin (3.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG), senior guard Payton Swoboda (2 PPG, 1.5 steals per game) and junior forward Jessica Eisenreich (1.0 PPG) all return to give the Macks a nucleus of experienced and successful athletes.
“The leadership is just unbelievable,” Cooper said. “It’s carried over from a successful season they had in volleyball and just having leaders that want to get better every single day in practice.”
For a team like McDonell that goes to its bench often, the fourth-year Macks coach said the first few weeks will be spent trying to find who among a cast of newcomers can provide strong reserve minutes when called upon.
“The biggest thing we lost is just players I could put in…in Division 5 basketball was the biggest strength we had over everybody,” Cooper said. “We had more depth than everybody. We could fill in any position at any time and the girls could produce at a high level.”
Newcomers Maggie Craker, Anna Geissler, Deedra Baughman, McKenzie Dachel and Lexi Johnson will get the first chances at filling those minutes left from a strong graduated senior class.
McDonell finished one game away from the program’s first conference championship since 1988-89 a season ago. The Macks aim to contend in the league again this season and open up the Western Cloverbelt schedule on Dec. 1 at Stanley-Boyd. McDonell also plays a challenging nonconference schedule that includes home matchups against sectional heavyweights Clayton (Dec. 2) and Flambeau (Feb. 12). Last season the Macks edged the Falcons in the regional finals (47-45) before being upended by the Bears one round later in the sectional semifinals (55-42).
McDonell hosts Mondovi in its season opener on Tuesday and on the heels of matching the program’s most wins in a single season since that conference title season in 1988-89, Cooper is looking forward to another strong season.
“These girls have put in the time and the effort and since 1989 we haven’t won a conference championship. Now what we want to do is get that,” Cooper said.
Nov. 21 Mondovi
Dec. 1 at Stanley-Boyd
Dec. 2 Clayton
Dec. 5 Thorp
Dec. 8 at Fall Creek
Dec. 14 Osseo-Fairchild
Dec. 16 at Neillsville
Dec. 19 at Altoona
Dec. 22 Clear Lake
Dec. 30 at Gilmanton
Jan. 4 Regis
Jan. 9 at Cadott
Jan. 12 Stanley-Boyd
Jan. 13 Grantsburg
Jan. 18 at Thorp
Jan. 23 Fall Creek
Jan. 26 at Osseo-Fairchild
Jan. 29 Cadott
Feb. 1 Altoona
Feb. 6 at Regis
Feb. 12 Flambeau