Looking at another long run
By RYAN SPITZA
MARQUETTE — After a successful regular season and winning the Class A district tournament for the third year in a row last spring, head coach Ben Smith hopes to take the Marquette girls basketball team even further this season.
The Redettes finished 20-4 last season, bowing out in the regional semifinals at Gaylord to Midland Dow after a nightmare of a trip held the team up at the Mackinac Bridge due to high wind conditions.
That’s no excuse for Smith or the Redettes, though, who look to go even further this year and are excited to get the season started.
“I’m really excited for it,” Smith said. “The kids get along really well, they’ve known each other for awhile, which is often the case, but the chemistry with this group is pretty solid.
“We’ve gotten off to a great start with energy and effort, kind of picking each other up and helping each other through things, which is great.”
Despite losing Great Northern Conference Player of the Year Amber Huebner along with Izzie Peterson and several others to graduation, the Redettes return six seniors. They are guards Chloe and Claudia Hale; forwards Stasha Warchock, Bridget Pliska and Ellie Hicks; and center Mo Miller.
While Smith said he’ll lean on those veteran players to carry the load, he also mentioned juniors and newcomers who add depth. Avery Ledy, Sydney Kivi, Kayley Elmblad, Sophie Bartlett, Jailyn Shelifoe and Kaeleigh Talbacka all join the varsity team this season.
“They all kind of get along,” Smith said. “Our length is pretty good, we have good versatility, but we have to figure out as a team what our strengths and weaknesses are, what our identity is, and I think we’re in the process of doing that.”
Asked about a goal, Smith said in general that expectations are always set to a high level.
“We never really set a goal,” he said.
“I think I have pretty high standards for the kids in our program, as do our coaches and the kids themselves.
“We want to try to win our home games, our in-county games, conference games and hopefully we can compete in our district, and if we’re able to do that, we’ve had a couple years now where we’ve done it but haven’t made that next step.
“We’ve already talked about how you can’t start in March and say ‘Hey let’s win this thing.’
“You have to be prepared for all the things that will get in your way basketball-wise, conditioning-wise, competitive-wise, and hopefully we’re a cohesive group going through and we’re ready to take all comers come tournament time.”
Asked if the Redettes were the best team in the U.P., Smith said the competition is as tough as always.
“It’s hard to tell because we’re early in the process,” Smith said. “But I like what I’m seeing, I like the work ethic that we have and hopefully continue to have, but I don’t know quite where we’re going to be when it’s all said and done, and I don’t quite know what other schools have.
“Until you get a few games in and have time on the court together, it’s really hard to tell what you have compared to others.
“For us, I hope every team is as prepared as possible because playing good teams only gets you better. Hopefully it all kind of comes together where it’s a competitive night every night and if we do our job we’ll be proud of what we did and come out with wins.
“And while we like to win, we also focus a lot on being prepared for when the wins count because if you don’t win them, you’re going home.”
The Redettes open the season on Friday, Dec. 1, against Manton at the Petoskey Invitational.
Email Ryan Spitza at email@example.com.
All times Eastern
Dec. 1 — * vs. Manton, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 2 — * to be determined
Dec. 5 — Gladstone, 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 7 — at Escanaba, 7:20 p.m.
Dec. 12 — at Negaunee, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 15 — ** to be determined
Dec. 16 — ** to be determined
Dec. 21 — Kingsford, 7:15 p.m.
Dec. 29 — Calumet, 7:15 p.m.
Jan. 2 — Gwinn, 7:15 p.m.
Jan. 9 — Escanaba, 7:15 p.m.
Jan. 16 — at Gladstone, 7:20 p.m.
Jan. 18 — Sault Ste. Marie, 7:15 p.m.
Jan. 26 — Menominee, 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 1 — Westwood, 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 6 — Houghton, 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 9 — at Kingsford, 8:20 p.m.
Feb. 15 — at Houghton, 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 20 — Negaunee, 7:15 p.m.
Feb. 22 — at Menominee, 7:20 p.m.
* at Petoskey Invitational
** at Traverse City Central Invite