New faces

The girls varsity basketball team welcomes many different players for the 2020-2021 season


Photo by Tenley Wright

Senior Laney Schipper fighting for the ball in a game against Omaha Bryan. This is Schipper’s third year on varsity and she is the most experienced player on the team.“Laney knows what it takes to compete at this level,” head coach Marc Kruger said. “We are looking for her to be a consistent scorer and defender.”

Jonathan Willis, Striv Executive Producer

The Lady Cats are hungry. After coming so close to the state tournament last year, they are determined to finish the job this time around. 

Last year, the Wildcats finished 14-9, finishing winning five of their last six games before losing to North Platte 53-39 in Districts. After a slow start to the year, the team bounced back and was playing tough in every game in the back half of the season.The team knew they had the capability of getting to state last year after many strong performances, but just couldn’t get past the Bulldogs. This year, they are looking to get over the hump and get all the way to state for the first time since 2017. 

“Last year, we got off to a slow start, but in January we really started to figure things out and played some really good basketball against a lot of good teams,” head coach Marc Kruger said. “We felt we had a very good chance to qualify for the state tournament, but didn’t play well and lost in the District final to a very good North Platte team.”

One of the biggest challenges the Lady Cats will have to face is the inexperience. Most of the playmakers the Wildcats had last year were seniors and have all moved on. College of St. Mary’s freshman Honnah Leo was one of the best shooters in the state last year, averaging 18.2 points per game. Midland freshman Kennedy Darner and Des Moines Area Community College freshman Jenna Bohaty were the two next leading scorers on the team last year. Without those scorers, new players will have to come in and fill those roles. Millard West will have a lot of players who haven’t played much at the varsity level, and therefore will have to step up this year for the team if they want to have success. 

“It is a totally new team, definitely the youngest and most inexperienced team I have ever coached,” Kruger said. “Honestly, I’m not totally sure what to expect. I know there will be bumps in the road, but I think this team will continue to improve all season.” 

Two players that the Wildcats do have returning are seniors Laney Schipper and Reese Peterson. They are the only seniors on the team and are going to be huge factors in helping develop the young players the team has this year. This is Schipper’s third year on the varsity level and last year she averaged 6.5 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game. This year, the team is looking towards her to be one of the most consistent scorers and defenders. 

“I think this year we are just focusing on bonding as a team,” Schipper said. “We are doing that so we can all work together to make up for the loss of some of our lead scorers.” 

The key to this year will be the young talent that the Wildcats have. After not playing as much on the varsity level last year, players like junior Emmy Holl, sophomore Libby Hoffman, junior Gwen Stocker and sophomore Kenna Scholting are going to see more minutes on the court each game. Kruger knows there have already been improvements from last year with this young group and that will only continue as the season goes along and these young players get more playing time. 

“I am looking to step up and use my experience to not only help the team succeed but also help the girls new to the team feel more comfortable playing at this level,” Stocker said. “I think a lot of the younger girls are stepping up into roles that we have lost and are making the most of the opportunity to help the team be successful.” 

Another big challenge the team is going to face this year is one that every team is going through which is COVID-19. The NSAA and Millard West have come out with their protocols to help keep everyone safe for basketball season. For games, each participant gets limited tickets to give out, and there will be no student section and no band which is going to drastically change the feel of the game for the players. 

“I think this season a lot of teams are going to wear masks while playing to eliminate having to figure out quarantining and things like that,” Stocker said.  “There is no band, no students and limited parents. The atmosphere will definitely not be as exciting as in years past.”

The Wildcats schedule is a tough one this year. They play seven out of the ten teams that were ranked in the Top Ten in Class A from last year. In late January, they play three straight Top Ten teams. The team has eight games at home and 16 games on the road. It will be a long road for the Cats this year, but they are very excited to get this season underway. 

“The team is going to need to be focused at all times and make sure we are putting forth our best effort in every quarter to be successful,” Stocker said.” If we stay focused and take it one game at a time then we are going to end up where we want to be at the end of the season.”

The Lady Cats are looking forward to the opportunity to still be able to compete during this unprecedented time. Millard West will kick off the season at Fremont High School on December 3.