Coach Nathan Hiebert said goodbye last spring to seniors who contributed large chunks of scoring and rebounding to a Hillsboro girls team that finished 18-6.
Four returning letter winners this year combined for only 15 points per game last season. His team is young, inexperienced, and shorter than he would prefer. Question marks abound.
However, Hiebert sees opportunities, and he believes he has the right group of players to pursue them.
“Most years we have an idea of who our first seven will be,” Hiebert said. “We have a lot of potential combinations. It’s fun because a lot of girls have opportunities to play varsity minutes.”
His players know they have much to learn to be successful, Hiebert said.
“There’s a lot of learning to do to get better at the little things,” he said. “We’ve got a group that listens well and are very teachable. From a coaching standpoint, that’s refreshing. The first week was a really good week.”
Alex Ratzlaff, a 5-foot-10 junior guard, is the team’s top returning scorer, averaging 11.7 points per game last season.
“She’s our main scorer, and she’s going to get a lot of attention,” Hiebert said. “She has a nice outside shot and can take it inside, too.”
While the team will count on points from her, Ratzlaff is equally as valuable as a catalyst for her teammates, Hiebert said.
“She’s does a great job of including other girls,” he said. “She’s not selfish in how she plays. She does a nice job of getting other girls involved. If you don’t get everybody involved, you’ll struggle.”
Senior Alison Weber will play point guard, and Hiebert said he expects her to turn up her game this season.
“Alison has done a great job for us in the past,” he said. “She doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. She hasn’t had to be a scorer, but we need her to be more aggressive this year. She understands that. She’ll give us opportunities to get into the offense.”
The Trojans will depend on senior guard Tara Proffitt for speed and outside scoring.
“She’s extremely fast,” Hiebert said. “Some of her best games were when she got transition buckets. She has nice outside shots as well, which we need to be able to stretch the defense.”
As the team’s most experienced senior, forward Darcy Heinrichs will be a strong defensive contributor, Hiebert said. He also wants to see more scoring from her.
“She had some games she got buckets inside for us,” he said. “We’re looking for her to step up, seal off, and get more buckets.”
Hiebert said he wasn’t locked in to a specific defense with this team, but he emphasizes a consistent defensive philosophy.
“We want to be able to do something that disrupts the other team, puts them off balance,” Hiebert said. “We want to bring some pressure. Turnovers equate to easier buckets.
“I’m a big proponent that teamwork and strong chemistry can overcome lack of abilities, so that’s one thing we’ve been working on quite a bit.”
The Trojans’ first game will be at home Dec. 5 against Nickerson.