COLUMBUS — Inexperienced, yes. But Columbus’ prep girls basketball team has plenty of reason to be excited about 2018-19.
“We are a very young team, but we have a lot of athleticism and a lot of quickness that we can work with,” Columbus coach Tim Dworak said.
The Cardinals only have two seniors on the team with four juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen. But with all that athleticism and quickness, Dworak is turning up the pressure on defense.
The goal is to try and fluster the opposition into making “rash or rush decisions, and hopefully decisions that benefit us in our favor with our press.”
It’s a strategy Columbus, which is off to a 2-5 start entering Friday night’s game vs. Marshall, is going with because they don’t have a great deal of size on the team, in contrast to the past four years when they had 6-foot-2 center Ashley Henry on the roster.
The tallest girl on this year’s team is 5-11 junior Aurora Toutant, who is averaging 4.0 points a game. Three girls stand 5-9 — freshman Kenzie Selk, senior Megan Boettcher and junior Alyssa Ekern.
Boettcher and the 5-5 Savannah Olson are the only two seniors. Dworak has seen them step into leadership roles in an effort to guide the fledgling Cardinals along.
They “have really done a great job of stepping up and leading by example for what it means to be a player in this program — doing things the right way, buying into the system — because they’ve been with me for three years now,” Dworak said. “They know the system works and once everyone buys in, really good things can happen with that. I think they’re doing their best to lead by example to get these younger girls to follow.”
Abbi Olson, a 5-5 junior, is leading the team at 11.0 points a game and has really improved quite a bit all-around from a year ago, while Molly Kahl, a 5-5 sophomore, is averaging 8.0 points a game.
Complementing them, 5-8 sophomore Jordan Link is putting up 7.5 points a game and 5-4 freshman Emma Paulson is averaging 7.2 per night for the Cardinals.
As a team, though, the Cardinals are looking for a little more in the scoring column as they’re only averaging 44.3 points per contest.
Dworak said he was impressed with the way the Cards performed against Waupun and Belleville, even though both efforts resulted in losses. The Cards were only down 19-15 at halftime before taking a 41-33 loss to the Warriors on Dec. 4, and then rebounding and free throw shooting hurt them in a 77-65 loss to the Wildcats on Tuesday.
“With a young team, you’ve got those peaks and those valleys, hopefully you can minimize the valleys and the heighten the peaks a little bit,” Dworak said. “We’ve had some pretty good steps in the right directions with our defense. We’re a little bit more reactive as the year goes on. We’re getting more deflections now and they’re starting to understand positioning and where we want them to be, whether it’s in the press or our half-court defense.
“They’re doing a lot better job of understanding what the man-to-man defense we run and the press we’re running is expecting them to do.”
As far as expectations for the year go, Dworak wants the Cardinals to improve day by day so that they’re a much better team come February than they were on day one.
“I think if we can continue to get better defensively, we can be very, very competitive in every game we play,” he said.