The Trailways East Conference is new this prep girls basketball season, but Central Wisconsin Christian will be in the familiar position of trying to chase down Oshkosh Lourdes for a league crown.
A new wrinkle, however, is that up-and-comer Horicon and talented Hustisford will also be in the race with the Knights and Crusaders this year.
Lourdes won the Trailways North with an undefeated 18-0 record last year, while CWC was fourth at 12-6 behind co-runners up Markesan and Pardeeville (14-4).
The Trailways North and Trailways South were reconfigured into three leagues for this season, sending the Hornets and Bulldogs to the newly formed Trailways West. But Lourdes’ quest to repeat may not have gotten any easier, now that they’ll have to fend off the Marshladies and Falcons, who tied for fourth in the Trailways South last season at 12-6.
The following is a preview of the area teams in the Trailways East, which also includes Dodgeland, Oakfield and Wayland Academy.
CENTRAL WISCONSIN CHRISTIAN (16-8 last season, 12-6 Trailways North)
The Crusaders defeating Hustisford 61-46 in their conference opener Tuesday night, pushing their overall record to 3-0 — a good sign that they’re poised to challenge Oshkosh Lourdes for the Trailways East crown.
A big reason for the early success is that head coach Charlie Mulder has a lot of players back for another season.
Tops on the list of returnees is 6-foot-1 senior Makayla DeYoung, who averaged a double-double last year at 10.6 points and 10.7 rebounds a game last season. And she’s at it again already, averaging 14.7 points and 14.3 rebounds so far this season.
Claire Jansen returns after she was the Crusaders’ leading scorer last season at 11.4 points a game. She has scored at a clip of 14.7 points a game through the CWC’s first three outings.
Melissa Van Den Berg is putting up 10.7 points and 7.3 rebounds a game thus far, while Courtney DeVries is averaging 10.0 per contest.
HUSTISFORD (14-9, 12-6 Trailways South)
The Falcons will look to contend with the Crusaders and Lourdes at the top of the conference, but they’ve already been bested in the early going. Hustisford will get another shot at CWC on Feb. 6.
The loss to the Crusaders dropped the Falcons to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in conference. Three Husty players are averaging double figures in scoring so far: Julia Peplinski (11.0), Brittney Frederick (10.8) and Cassidy Ewert (10.2).
All three return from last season; Peplinski was the Trailways South’s leading scorer at 23.5 points per game.
HORICON (15-9, 12-6 Trailways South)
The Marshladies are currently 2-1 on the season and haven’t faced anyone in conference yet. They dropped their opener to Random Lake before defeating Randolph 51-35 and thumping Cambria-Friesland 64-21.
Payton Marvin currently leads the team in scoring at 13.0 points per game to go along with 3.7 rebounds a game. She is one of three players averaging double-digit points so far, joined by Jordan Adamson (12.7) and Riley Hazelberg (12.5), who is also averaging 9.5 rebounds per game.
Nicole Jongebloed has also been a force on the glass at 11.7 rebounds a game and has been averaging 6.7 points per contest.
DODGELAND (6-17, 6-12 Trailways South)
The Trojans are off to a slow start so far this season, with no wins against three losses.
But Dodgeland has gotten more competitive with each outing, cutting their margin of loss from 20 (vs. Pardeeville) to 15 (vs. Williams Bay) and finally seven in a 40-33 loss to Deerfield. The game vs. the Demons could serve as a building block, as Deerfield was third in the Trailways South last season at 13-5.
The Trojans have Julia Holtz averaging 13.7 points a game and Payton Hinrichsen at 8.0 points a game, while no one else on the team is averaging over 4.0 points a game.
WAYLAND ACADEMY (0-22, 0-18 Trailways West)
The glass-is-half-full outlook, of course, is that things can only go up for the Big Red following a winless campaign. They open this season at home tonight vs. Horicon.
The Big Red had a lot of young talent last season, with only two seniors. This year, with added experience and six seniors (Tamara Moreno, Courtney James-Atkins, Sydney Walker, Ali Hess, Chibuzor Onwochei and Ifeoma Egbuna), the prospects of Wayland improving are promising.