Youth is rarely viewed as a positive in high school basketball. Teams would much rather rely on experience and more mature bodies to carry them through the season. But, that isn’t the case for the 2021-22 Waterloo girls basketball team. With just one senior, Alyssa Baumann on roster, head coach Gabe Haberkorn thinks the team’s chemistry can do wonders this season.
”We’re trying to mix the young kids into the already established chemistry,” Haberkorn said. “We are very young. We have one senior. We’re looking to start one or two sophomores and a couple juniors. Building that chemistry early with the younger girls is going to be key. It’s going well. Being a small town, it kind of comes naturally. We’re happy with where it’s at right now.”
Last year, the Pirates posted a final record of 11-15 and won a regional championship. This was thanks in large part to two seniors, first team All-Conference selection Skyler Powers and forward Joslyn Wolff. Powers led the team in scoring, averaging 13.4 points per game while Wolff led the way in rebounding average with eight.
The losses continue for the Pirates even beyond graduation. Junior Sophia Schneider, the Capitol — South conference player of the year in volleyball this year, has opted not to come out for the team and focus on volleyball. She averaged 10 points and 5.8 rebounds for the Pirates last year.
”Obviously it’s disappointing,” Haberkorn said. “She is a very talented player. She could have challenged for conference player of the year. That’s a pretty big loss.”
Thankfully, the Pirates will still have junior Julia Asik. Asik was named honorable mention All-Conference as a sophomore after averaging 10.8 points, five rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.9 steals. The 5’9” guard can do it all and will be the focal point of the Waterloo offense.
Outside of Asik, Haberkorn is optimistic about the rest of his squad.
”We have a couple of sophomores that can score in (Brenna) Huebner and (Tess) Blundell. (Ava) Jaehnke is underrated. She can score, she can shoot. Those will be our main players. Maddie Webster has shown some good stuff early as well.”
Jaehnke was the most productive of that group. As a sophomore, she averaged 4.1 points, a team-high 3.2 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.6 steals. Another do-it-all player like Asik, the 5’5” junior guard will be asked to do even more this season.
Huebner, a 5’8” wing, showed an impressive nose for rebounds last season, averaging 2.7 per game. With so many other weapons on the offense, though, she rarely got chances to show her scoring ability. As a projected starter this year, she’s a name to keep an eye on as an offensive breakout candidate.
Baumann, the lone senior, played in all of Waterloo’s games last season, gaining some valuable experience. The 5’10” forward averaged 2.1 points and 1.9 rebounds on the forward-heavy squad. She’ll need to turn that experience from last year into more production as the Pirates will look to her for senior leadership.
Blundell didn’t get to see much varsity action as a freshman last season, seeing just an average of six minutes per game. But, in her limited time, she showed flashes of the offensive production she could provide. The 5’9” wing hit 33% of her field goal attempts and 33% of her 3-point attempts. If she can keep up similar production with increased responsibility this season, the Pirates may have another go-to scorer on their hands.
Webster, a 5’4” guard, is looking to have a breakout junior season. She played in every game for the Pirates last season but didn’t have the stats to back up the copious playing time. With the lineup and responsibility wide open heading into the season, she could make a jump.
While there will be new faces on the varsity this year, philosophy will remain the same.
”We’re like the badgers in football,” Haberkorn said. “Everyone knows what we’re going to do. We’ll try to get up and down the court. We’ll play our usual tight, pressure defense. Dribble-drive and continuity on offense and solid rotation and pressure on defense. It won’t be any surprise.”
The continuity of both offensive and defensive schemes should help with both chemistry and player progression. This is a familiar scheme that, even in limited time, all of these girls have run before. It’s a fantastic move to do what the team is strongest in day in and day out.
This tried-and-true method will be on display for the first time in the fresh season as Waterloo will travel to Parkview Tuesday, Nov. 16 to kick off the season. The Pirates’ home opener doesn’t come until Monday, Nov. 29 when they will welcome in Pardeeville.