The Waunakee girls’ basketball program has a new look.

On the court, the Warriors are replacing four key contributors from last year’s 14-10 campaign; on the sideline, Waunakee has a new leader atop the program in first-year head coach Marcus Richter.

Richter – a 2013 graduate of Winona State University – has the luxury of leaning on a pair of two-year starters returning to the 2019-20 squad; the Warriors will look to junior guard Elena Maier and senior forward Melanie Watson for leadership early on.

“It will be huge early on for those two players to take on a leadership role,” said Richter, who was previously the freshmen boys’ coach at Waunakee. “Having played a large role on the team the last two years, they have the experience needed to turn into leaders on this team.”

Maier was a First-Team Badger North honoree after leading the Warriors in scoring a season ago, while Watson garnered an Honorable Mention Badger North selection during the 2017-18 season. Following the departure of four regular starters from last year’s team, Maier and Watson will likely have their numbers called often as the season progresses.

There’s no shortage of players looking to carve out roles alongside Waunakee’s two established starters, particularly in the backcourt. Seniors Brooke Ehle and Anne Dotzler – after being key contributors off the bench in 2018-19 – are leading candidates to step into the starting guard roles alongside Maier. Close on their heels, though, are a group of juniors including Kailee Meeker, Lauren Statz and Sarah Bova.

“There is a large group of sophomores, juniors, and seniors who played smaller roles on varsity last year or big roles on a very successful JV group,” added Richter. “It will be fun to see how everything plays out with those girls battling early in the year to fill the holes that were left from the departing seniors.”

In the frontcourt, potential candidates to play alongside Watson include senior Caitlyn Lynch and sophomore Ashley Sawicki. A deep bench was vital to Waunakee’s success a season ago, and that tradition will likely continue in 2019-20.

“There are other players who may not have been big-minute girls last year that have really stepped up during the offseason as well,” Richter said. “This is a group that loves to be in the gym and seems to push each other.”

The Warriors get an early start to the season, scrimmaging at Middleton on Saturday, just days after their first practice of the season. Waunakee will officially tip off their new season on Tuesday, Nov. 19, when they welcome Madison East to the Waunakee High School Fieldhouse. Tip time against the Purgolders is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

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