Editor's note: Coaches' career records for all teams are as of the start of the season.
Head coach: Michael Behl, fifth year (47-71).
Last season: The Thunderbirds went 4-19 in a season that ended when they suffered a 67-42 loss at DeForest in the opening round of the WIAA Division 2 tournament. Baraboo went 3-11 in Badger North Conference play to finish seventh out of eight teams in the conference standings.
Program history: Baraboo has never reached the WIAA state tournament. The T-Birds’ last Badger North title came when they went 21-4 overall, including 11-1 in conference play, during the 2012-13 season. The T-Birds reached the Division 2 sectional semifinals that season before suffering a 67-46 loss to Monona Grove.
Key departures: Lindsay Johnson is the lone T-Bird gone from last season. The 5-foot-10 forward scored 4.0 points per game while playing on a young team that brings everyone else back this winter.
Key returning players: Baraboo returns seven seniors and three juniors this year. Most of them earned significant playing time last year, highlighted by three returning honorable mention all-Badger North Conference selections, versatile seniors Haley Hannagan (11.6 points per game), Lexi Johnson (11.6 ppg) and Lia Kieck (10.2 ppg).
Breakout candidates: Megan Horstman (7.6 pgg) will likely see the biggest increase in playing time after missing all but five games of her junior season due to injury. The six-foot senior should give the T-Birds another presence inside to go along with Kieck. Senior guards Abby Moon (5.2 ppg) and Grace Stuckey (5.1 ppg) will need to hit 3-pointers in order to open up the middle for driving lanes. Stuckey will also be at the head of Baraboo’s zone defense, where she’ll look to get in the passing lanes and create turnovers.
The skinny: The T-Birds have to figure out ways to score if they are going to move up in the Badger North standings this winter. Baraboo scored just 44.4 points per game last year despite adopting a fast-paced offense that was based around forcing turnovers and shooting 3-pointers. Those tenants are primarily gone this season, as the T-Birds are looking to play solid defense and take the best shot they can get. The offense hasn’t got off the ground yet this season, scoring just 24 points per game in season-opening losses to Stoughton (43-30) and Beaver Dam (66-18). If the T-Birds can develop on the offensive side of the ball, they should have the athletes to play good enough defense to move up a couple of spots in the Badger North standings.
BEAVER DAM GOLDEN BEAVERS
Head coach: Tim Chase, 14th year (225-94).
Last season: The Golden Beavers lost for the first time since the 2015-16 Division 2 sectional finals when they were defeated by one of the best teams from Illinois in Maine West on Dec. 2, 2017. They would also lose to one of the best teams from Minnesota in a holiday tournament game on Dec. 30, but otherwise, it was another dominant season as they won every other game by double digits, including the Division 2 state championship game over New Berlin Eisenhower, 51-41.
Program history: Beaver Dam is 77-4 over the last three years and won the Little Ten Conference in the final eight years of its existence, dating back to the 2009-10 season, before winning the Badger North Conference last season in year one in the conference. The Golden Beavers have been to the state tournament four times — in 1991, 2010, 2017 and 2018 — and won the state title both of the last two years. They were the Division 1 runner-up in 1991.
Key departures: Gone are Afton Bartol (9.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game) — one of only 10 players in program history with 700 or more points (710) — and Maryn Ferron (7.6 points), as well as a couple other role players, but by and large, the Golden Beavers cast of characters that contributed to last year’s state title remains intact.
Ket returning players: Seniors Tara Stauffacher (10.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game), Paige Schumann (7.0 points, 5.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 steals) and Aly Van Loo (6.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks) are headed to NCAA Division I programs in the University of Wisconsin, Eastern Illinois and North Dakota, are all back. Also returning is sophomore Maty Wilke (11.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals) — who is being heavily recruited by several Division 1 programs — after leading Beaver Dam in scoring and rebounding last year. Also back is defensive wizard Jada Donaldson (2.2 steals), a junior who is a capable scorer but makes her biggest impact as the one called upon to shut down the other team’s top scoring guard.
Breakout candidates: Sophomore Natalie Jens came on a month or so into last year and was one of Beaver Dam’s top players off the bench during the its second-straight state-championship run. But this year she’ll likely be asked to do more, and should see significant bumps in her averages of 5.1 points and 1.4 assists per game.
The skinny: The Golden Beavers enter this season as the unquestioned team to beat in Division 2 and are the preseason No. 1 in all of Wisconsin, as they are ranked 14th nationally in the MaxPreps preseason top-25. They’ll be well-tested by tournament time, too, thanks to a rigorous non-conference schedule that includes a Dec. 21 date with a Mequon Homestead team that boasts college talent on its roster, as well as a trip to the Naples (Fla.) Holiday Shootout — one of the top holiday tournaments in the country — from Dec. 27-29. Another test will come in a Jan. 5 meeting with defending D1 state qualifier Hartland Arrowhead. Beaver Dam also played against the MaxPreps preseason No. 21 team in the country in Benet Academy out of Lisle, Illinois, on Dec. 1 at William Fremd High School, a little ways outside of Chicago, but results from that game weren’t available as of press time. Beaver Dam’s depth means the stats get spread around pretty good and no one player puts up eye-popping numbers. The team, though, will likely topple program records at a good clip and the run the Golden Beavers are currently on doesn’t appear in much jeopardy.
Head coach: Jerry Schwenn, fourth year (40-32).
Last season: The Norskies went 9-15 overall and finished fourth in the Badger North Conference at 6-8. The Norskies reached the regional semifinals, falling to Stoughton, 56-42.
Program history: DeForest’s last Badger North Conference title came in 2015-16 when the Norskies shared the crown with rival Waunakee after finishing 10-2. The Norskies have played in the state tournament four times, finishing runner-up in their last appearance in 2014.
Key departures: The Norskies graduated seven seniors, including third-leading scorer Delaney Kramar, who averaged 5.7 points per game last season. DeForest will also have to replace the production of Kennedy Wittmann (4.5 ppg).
Key returning players: Senior forward Aleah Grundahl (13 ppg, 6.8 rpg) sophomore forward Grace Roth (9.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and junior Maggie Trautsch (4 ppg, 1.6 rpg).
Breakout candidate: After averaging 5.4 points and 2 rebounds per game as a freshman, Megan Mickelson should make an impact. The junior forward missed all of last season due to a leg injury.
The skinny: The Norskies return 10 letterwinners, along with five of their top-seven scorers from last year’s team that averaged 47.8 points per game. The duo of Grundahl and Roth will lead the way for DeForest after earning All-Badger North honors last year. Grundahl earned first team honors for a second-straight season while Roth was an honorable mention selection. While Schwenn noted that point guard play and development in roles will be two main points of concern, the team’s depth provides a balance and has fostered a spirited group. “Our competitive standards have been raised by everybody this offseason. Competition will be very good in practices,” he said.
MOUNT HOREB VIKINGS
Head coach: Bill Freidig, third year (21-26).
Last season: The Vikings were heavily hit by their graduation losses last year as they went 3-20 overall and finished last in the Badger North Conference at 1-13. Mount Horeb fell to McFarland, 58-51, in a region quarterfinal.
Program history: Mount Horeb has never won the Badger North Conference since its inception in 2002-03. The Vikings have one state tournament appearance in their history, finishing runner-up in 1996.
Key departures: Mount Horeb graduated five seniors, including a pair of starters, from last year’s group. Among that group are the team’s top two scorers and All-Badger North honorable mention selections Lindsey LaBorde and Sydney King, who averaged 10 and 8 points per game.
Key returning players: Senior forward Sarah Toay, sophomore forward Julia Magnuson and junior guard Kenzie Coulthard.
Breakout candidate: Allivia McCormick averaged just 1.3 points per game as a sophomore and after being sidelined all of last season with a broken foot, Freidig expects the senior guard to have a big impact.
The skinny: After going through some major growing pains last season, Freidig is hopeful the Vikings can move up the Badger North leaderboard in 2018-19. With seven players who saw significant minutes last season, he may be right. Mount Horeb returns three starters and three of its top five scorers from last year’s team, led by the duo of Toay and Coulthard. Coulthard, a 5-foot-8 guard, averaged 7.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, while Toay (5-11, forward), chipped in 6.9 ppg and 3.9 rpg. The duo, along with Magnuson (5-11, forward, 5.5 ppg), the return of McCormick and a crop of young athletic players have the Vikings heading in the right direction.
Head coach: Jessica Howe, second season (8-15).
Last season: The Warriors went 8-15 overall in their first season under Howe, finishing tied for fifth in the Badger North Conference at 5-9 with Sauk Prairie. Portage saw its season come to a close with a 67-50 loss to the Eagles in a Division 2 regional quarterfinal.
Program history: Portage has never won the Badger North Conference since joining the league in the 2001-02 season. Portage’s best finish in the Badger North Conference came when it finished second in the league with a 9-3 record in 2014-15. The Warriors do have some tournament history, qualifying for the state tournament seven times, including six times during an eight-year stretch from 1981 to 1988. Portage’s lone state championship came in 1982 when the Warriors finished off an undefeated season with a 52-36 win over Kewaskum.
Key departures: The Warriors lost three seniors to graduation, including starters Hanne Anderson and Erin Kibby. Anderson averaged 4.3 points per game while Kibby chipped in 2.5. Along with Anderson and Kibby, Portage loses Molly Callen, who saw limited minutes but was a great source of energy on the bench.
Key returning players: Senior guard MacKenzie Roth, junior guard McKena Yelk, senior guard Tess Wilson and junior guard Katelyn Belleau.
Breakout candidate: A key role player off the bench last year, Brianna Brandner should be more of a contributor. The speedy 5-foot-7 junior guard averaged 3.4 points per game last season and will be relied upon more this season.
The skinny: Losing just three seniors, the Warriors return a good chunk of last year’s team, and with four starters back, Portage is eyeing more success in year two under Howe. Of the returnees, Portage welcomes back four starters, including a pair of All-Badger North picks in Yelk and Roth. Yelk led the way in scoring last year as the 5-foot-8 guard averaged a team-best 13.2 points per game, adding 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game, while Roth (5-6, guard) added 11.5 ppg, 2.9 spg and 1.8 apg. Belleau and Wilson also return as starters for a Warriors team that features plenty of athleticism. While the league is again difficult, Howe believes Portage has what it takes to rise in the standings, thanks in part to the Warriors’ chemistry.
Head coach: Mark Simon, 12th season (194-94).
Last season: The Beavers went 18-6 overall and tied Waunakee for second in the Badger North Conference with a mark of 11-3. Reedsburg’s season ended with a 57-40 loss to Stoughton in a Division 2 Regional Final.
Program history: Reedsburg won the Badger North Conference title in 2004-05, going 11-2. Along with last year, the Beavers tied for second in the Badger North with Waunakee in 2013-14 and again in 2010-11, and tied for second with Sauk Prairie in 2007-08. They took took second in the 2011-12 season behind Waunakee, second in the 2005-06 season behind DeForest, and second in the 2002-03 season behind DeForest. Reedsburg has only appeared in the state tournament one time, as the Beavers advanced in 2012 and fell 47-28 to New Berlin Eisenhower in the Division 2 Semifinal.
Key departures: The Beavers lose unanimous first-team all-conference pick Brooklyn Schyvinck, who was the team’s go-to player in the paint, averaging 17.3 points per game.
Key returning players: Ava Douglas, 5-7, sr., PG (15.2 ppg, 5 apg); Skyler Miller, 5-8, sr., G (9.2 ppg); Alyssa Straka, 5-8, sr., G (6.7 ppg); Julia Korklewski, 5-7, sr., G (8.9 ppg).
Breakout candidates: Freshmen Macie Wieman and Mahra Wieman join the team after strong volleyball seasons, along with freshman Trenna Cherney who had a breakout game in the season opener, scoring 23 points off 8-for-12 shooting while also collecting 10 rebounds.
The skinny: Reedsburg is coming off a strong 2017-18 season and will likely keep that success going with the return of four starters, all of whom earned all-conference recognition last season. Senior Ava Douglas, a first-team All-Badger North point guard, has been a catalyst for the team for the past three seasons. Simon said Douglas has improved her ability to get to the basket this year, and “makes others better with her pure strength and athleticism.” She’s joined by third-year starters Skyler Miller and Alyssa Straka who are smart defensive players who like to pull down rebounds, and senior Julia Korklewski who is a threat from the perimeter. Juniors Rachel Schmitt, Rylee Dorow and Kaitlyn Zunker will all be in the mix as well. Reedsburg will look to replicate its offensive production which saw an average of 58.4 points per game last year.
SAUK PRAIRIE EAGLES
Head coach: Amber Fiene, second year (9-15).
Last season: The Eagles went 9-15, including tying for fifth in the Badger North at 5-9, in their first year under Fiene. It was a five-game improvement from the year before, when Sauk Prairie went 4-19 in Brian Lutz’s lone year as head coach. Fiene began to implement a more aggressive, defensive approach last season, as Sauk Prairie looked to create turnovers and turn them into points. The ninth-seeded Eagles went on the road and opened the WIAA Division 2 tournament with a 57-50 win over eighth-seeded Portage before suffering a 75-51 loss at Monroe in the regional semifinals.
Program history: The Eagles’ last winning season came in 2009-10, while they went .500 in 2013-14. Since then, Sauk Prairie had seven or fewer wins in three straight seasons prior to winning nine games last year. The Eagles’ last Badger North championship came when they went 20-5 overall, including 10-3 in conference play, to share the 2009-10 title with Waunakee. The Eagles, who have never reached the state tournament.
Key departures: Sauk Prairie lost a trio of seniors from last season -- Hannah Schneider, Julia Ballweg and Kayla Breunig. Schneider was an honorable mention all-conference pick last season, averaging 6.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.
Key returning players: The Eagles return their three other honorable mention all-Badger North representatives from last season -- seniors Riley Breunig, Camryn Ballweg and Taylor Breininger. Breunig scored a team-high 9.8 points per game last season while making a team-leading 23 3-pointers and adding 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.4 assists per game. Breininger was second on the team with 8.4 points per game last season, adding 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game while also attacking the basket and leading the Eagles in free throws made (61) and attempted (99). Ballweg averaged 6.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and a team-best 3.2 assists per game last year, while also leading the Eagles with 2.4 steals and 65 defensive deflections.
Breakout candidates: Sophomore Naomi Breunig is expected to be a key cog in Sauk Prairie’s attack this winter. The 5-foot-10 wing contributed immediately last season, averaging 8.9 points per game as a freshman, but will take on an even larger role this time around. Olivia Breunig is looking for the same progression after scoring 6.1 points per game as a freshmanlast season. Freshman Makenzie Breunig also brings some much-needed size and rebounding ability to the table, while Ella Schad (7.1 points per game) can score the ball while also serving as a lockdown defender.
The skinny: The Eagles are looking to continue to shape their program in the second year in Fiene’s system. Sauk Prairie will look to use its team speed to hone its aggressive style of play intent on creating turnovers and creating one-on-one matchups on the offensive end. Fiene is going to further emphasize defense this winter. “(Last year) we didn’t get to spend the quality time that I had hoped on developing our defense,” she said. “This will be our focus this year. We need to be able to stop teams.” The end goal is to finish in the top half of the conference standings and to begin to establish themselves as a regular threat to the top teams in the Badger North.
Head coach: Tom Lesar, fourth year (53-18).
Last season: The Warriors went 16-7 overall and finished tied for second in the Badger North Conference with Reedsburg, each going 11-3. Waunakee saw it season come to an end in the regional semifinal, suffering a 44-42 upset loss to Watertown.
Program history: Waunakee has finished no worse than third in the Badger North each of the last nine seasons, and won four Badger North Conference titles. The Warriors have reached the state tournaments six times, most recently in 2015, and won their lone state championship in 1993.
Key departures: The Warriors graduated four seniors, most notably three-time first team All-Badger North selection Cici Rindy. Rindy, who now plays at Division II Maryville University, averaged a team-high 12.5 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last season.
Key returing players: Senior guard Maddie Farnsworth (11.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg), junior forward Melanie Watson (7.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and sophomore guard Elena Maier (7.6 ppg).
Breakout candidate: With the loss of Rindy, the Warriors could turn to senior Kiana Schmitt as a force down low. The 6-foot-3 Creighton volleyball commit is out for basketball this season.
The skinny: Waunakee’s streak of nine-straight top-3 Badger North finishes will have a good chance to reach 10 this year as the Warriors return a talented group from last year’s team. Four starters are back from that group, most notably Farnsworth, who will be the cornerstone of the Warriors attack that averaged 57.2 points per game. Adding to that backcourt is Maier and Murray, along with senior Caitlyn Kseilewski (6.3 ppg). Coach Tom Lesar, who has yet to post a losing record at Waunakee, said that team defense and rebounding will be areas of improvement as the year progresses. With the depth and talent of the backcourt, expect the Warriors to again push the pace.