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Not offering any excuses: Marquette Redettes don’t want inexperience to hold down expectations

The 2019-20 Marquette Senior High School girls varsity basketball team has some big shoes to fill this season. In the front row from left are Natalie Tripp, Clarissa Remillard, Olivia McMahon, Reegan Ketzenberger and assistant coach Dana Rudden. Top row from left, head coach Ben Smith, Aspen Michelin, Sofia van den Ende, Rayna Warchock, Maria Millado, Kaleah Puskala, Ruth Hummell, Averie Kelly and Hannah Young. (Journal photo by Ryan Spitza)

Marquette girls

2019-20 schedule

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Dec. 3 — at Escanaba, 7:15 p.m.

Dec. 6 — vs. Brighton (at Petoskey tourney), 5:30 p.m.

Dec. 7 — vs. Grandville or Petoskey (at Petoskey tourney), TBA

Dec. 10 — Gladstone, 7:15 p.m.

Dec. 13 — at Traverse City Central, 7 p.m.

Dec. 14 — at Traverse City West, TBA

Dec. 17 — at Negaunee, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 3 — Sault Ste. Marie, 7 p.m.

Jan. 10 — at Kingsford, 5:15 p.m.

Jan. 14 — Escanaba, 7 p.m.

Jan. 16 — Calumet, 7 p.m.

Jan. 21 — at Gladstone, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 29 — at Calumet, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 31 — Menominee, 6 p.m.

Feb. 6 — Westwood, 7 p.m.

Feb. 10 — Houghton, 7 p.m.

Feb. 14 — Kingsford, 7 p.m.

Feb. 20 — at Houghton, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 25 — Negaunee, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 28 — at Menominee, 6:30 p.m.

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MARQUETTE — After losing some star power, it may be a challenge for the Marquette Senior High School varsity girls basketball team to improve on a 20-4 season.

Despite graduating six seniors, head coach Ben Smith and the Redettes are up for the test.

MSHS will begin the season with 13 players, four of whom are returning seniors and the remaining nine fresh off the junior varsity.

The Redettes are coming off of their seventh consecutive Great Northern Conference title and fifth consecutive district title, as well as being named the Division 1-2 Team of the Year by the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

The Redettes’ only losses were at the hands of Brighton, Negaunee, Westwood and Midland Dow, the latter coming in the MHSAA Division 1 regional semifinal.

Smith said practice is going well so far as his players are still finding their roles.

“We’re kind of trying to pick up where we left off in terms of understanding what our roles are and trying to move into some different roles, having graduated six seniors,” he said. “We have four returners, eight juniors and one sophomore. We’re trying to figure out how to work together and how to communicate.

“Every team, no matter what you think you have coming in, it’s always a little bit different. Kids kind of step up and step into different leadership roles, be more vocal, and make the decisions they need to that they weren’t necessarily counted on for in previous years.

“I think we’re kind of figuring that out as we go, but just like any year, you never really know how it’s going to be until you’ve gone through a good number of practices and handful of games. That’s when you kind of see exactly how things start fitting together.”

The six seniors lost were Rachael Hunt, Kayley Elmblad, Sophie Bartlett, Avery Ledy, Sydney Kivi and Kaleigh Talbacka. Of those six, Ledy and Kivi were the ones who stood out most.

Both were named to the UPSSA All-U.P. Dream Team, and Ledy took home GNC Player of the Year and Defensive Team honors. Kivi was named to the GNC First Team, while Elmblad also picked up an honorable mention. Bartlett was named to the Defensive Team and received honorable mention as well.

“Any time you’re losing seniors, the bad news is you’re going to miss them,” Smith said. “The great news for us is that they were such great pieces to our program and they showed on a daily basis how hard you had to work and what you needed to put in to get the results you want to get.

“They set a great example, and obviously we’ll miss them, but it’s their time to go out and be great in other areas besides high school and the basketball arena.”

The Redettes do bring back some strong returners, who battled their way through various issues last season. The four senior returners are Reegan Ketzenberger, Aspen Michelin, Maddie Carter and Sofia van den Ende.

Carter and Michelin both earned GNC Second Team honors last season, and Michelin recently signed a National Letter of Intent to continue her academic and basketball career at Michigan Tech.

Last season, Michelin, a 5-foot-10 point guard, averaged 10.3 points, three rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.

“Looking at Aspen, she played a big role for us last year but battled an injury the whole year,” Smith said. “Not too many people knew about it because she just gutted it out and played. She’s coming into this year healthy and with confidence, with the expectation to fill some of that leadership role. She’s had a great summer and preseason lead-in to the year.

“Maddie is a lefty post player, she did some good things for us last year. Reegan battled through a broken nose last year and competed for us, and Sofia is our other returner. She missed some time with wisdom teeth. They’ve all had some varsity experience, and they’re going to be expected to rely on that to kind of show the way to the rest of the crew.

“Just because the juniors and one sophomore are coming in without a ton of game experience at the varsity level, we don’t want to have excuses that we’re too young or we’re too this or too that. We’ve got to be able to step up and be ready to compete.”

Maria Millado is the lone sophomore as she joins eight of junior teammates from the JV squad last season. Those teammates are Ruth Hummell, Kaleah Puskala, Clarissa Remillard, Natalie Tripp, Olivia McMahon, Hannah Young, Rayna Warchock and Averie Kelly.

Hummell, Tripp, McMahon and Kelly will primarily work out of the post positions, while Puskala and Remillard will serve as guards. Young and Warchock will be wing players while Millado can be used as a utility player up and down the floor.

“The biggest thing is that they understand that it’s kind of a new thing,” Smith said. “They don’t really know what it’s about and they’ve been working hard in practice, but it’s definitely different.

“No matter how hard you practice, they kind of get their feet wet in that first game and it seems like it’s going a million miles per hour.

“Hopefully we can just keep grinding through things in practice and just keep confident and comfortable with what we’re trying to do.

“Obviously as we get more comfortable with that, we’re able to prepare for other teams as we know what they’re going to bring to the table, which will give us the best chance to compete and win.”

Marquette has a tough road ahead as always. Outside of its traditional GNC opponents in Gladstone, Kingsford, Escanaba and Menominee, the Redettes have a strong slate of nonconference opponents both from around the U.P. and below the Mackinac Bridge.

The U.P. nonconference schedule includes Negaunee, Calumet and Houghton twice, and Westwood and Sault Ste. Marie once. Going below the bridge, the Redettes will see Brighton, Petoskey, Grandville, Traverse City Central and Traverse City West.

“I think the best-case scenario for us is if everyone is ready to battle and it’s a dogfight every night,” Smith said. “The hardest part is to try and get ready when the other team isn’t ready to go. I think our schedule is set up with some teams who are going to be really competitive, really scrappy and we’ll have to do all we can to be in games, which is how you want it.”

Smith added that the tournament in March is still a long way off, but it’s always something he and his players think about.

“Hopefully we’re able to get things going in the right direction and figure some things out,” the coach said. “If not, we’ll just keep working until we get to tournament time. We’ll be as battle-tested as we can and we’ll go and take it from there.”

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.