Callie Bever

New Lisbon's Callie Bever is among the five returning starters back to lead the Rockets during the 2017-18 season.

ERICA DYNES/Star-Times

New Lisbon endured four straight losing seasons and finishes at or near the bottom of the Scenic Bluffs Conference standings. But with most of last year’s team returning, brighter days could be ahead for the Rockets.

Since 2013, New Lisbon has gone 25-63 overall and 12-44 in conference play, never finishing higher than tied for sixth in the SBC standings. It has been a tough stretch for the Rockets, who as recently as 2012 won a conference title and advanced all the way to the sectional semifinals.

However, there is hope for improvement heading into the 2017-18 season. The entire starting rotation from last season will be back for head coach Dan Sagert, who is entering the third season of his second tenure with New Lisbon (he previously served as head coach during the 1996-97 season).

Still, Sagert noted a slight decrease in turnout means depth and experience could be a bit of an issue behind the starting rotation.

“A few kids didn’t go out who went out last year that I figured would contribute,” Sagert said. “We’re pretty thin (in experience) on the depth side of things.”

With the Rockets needing to break in inexperienced players behind the starting rotation, veteran leadership could be imperative for the team.

Among the returning players are junior guard/forward Callie Bever and sophomore guard Mya Delgado, who both were named to the All-SBC second team last season as underclassmen. Bever also earned the distinction during her freshman year.

Bever put up 9.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.0 steals last year for the Rockets, while Delgado added 10.2 points and 3.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals per contest. Last year’s leading scorer Kayla Steele (10.7 points per game) also returns for New Lisbon.

Though it is true the Rockets lack a ton of experience behind the starters, Sagert points to the progress of last season’s team as a sign of hope for this upcoming year.

“We have three juniors that started last year as sophomores,” he said. “I keep hearing ‘you’re young, you’re young, you’re young’. Well that’s true, but we did really well the last half of last season.”

He provided his team’s games against Alma Center Lincoln and Brookwood as examples of their improvement. The Rockets fell 62-38 to Alma Center Lincoln in last year’s season opener and was much more competitive in an 11-point loss against them in the playoffs. New Lisbon was blown out by 45 against Brookwood in their first meeting, but nearly knocked off the Falcons in a one-point loss the second time around.

Sagert believes the growing pains of the 2016-17 season and players’ increasing familiarity with his system could pay dividends for the Rockets as they seek improvement this year.

“One thing that’s different this year from my first two seasons is that a lot of the stuff is review,” he said. “Now, I’m throwing in some new stuff, but a lot of it is what we’ve been doing. So it feels pretty good for me in my third year that … it’s more review than introduction.”

“We should start stronger this year because they’re familiar with the system now.”