Editor’s note: Coaches’ career records for all teams are as of the start of the season.
HEAD COACH: Michael Behl, fourth year (43-52).
LAST SEASON: 11-13 overall, finishing fifth in the Badger North Conference at 4-8, earned a double-overtime win over Reedsburg in the opening round of the WIAA Division 2 playoffs before suffering a 70-38 loss to top-seeded Stoughton in the regional semifinals.
PROGRAM HISTORY: Baraboo’s last conference title came when they went 21-4 overall, including 11-1 in conference play, during the 2012-13 season. The T-Birds reached the WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinals that season before suffering a 67-46 loss to Monona Grove. … Baraboo has never qualified for the state tournament.
KEY DEPARTURES: The Thunderbirds lost four key seniors from last season. Emily Kieck moved on to Winona (Minn.) State after a high school career in which she scored 1,331 points and was a four-time All-Badger North Conference first team selection. Josie Schaefer leaves a hole in the post after averaging 10.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game on the way to earning honorable mention all-conference recognition last season. Hannah Braun and Emily Stieve, an honorable mention all-conference pick in 2015-16, also graduated.
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Junior guard Lexi Johnson (7.7 points per game last year) and junior forward Lia Kieck (5.8) return as versatile, do-it-all players who each earned honorable mention All-Badger North Conference recognition last season.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: Juniors Haley Hannagan and Grace Stuckey both played significant minutes last season, but they will take on much larger duties this season. Stuckey has spent significant minutes at point guard during Baraboo’s first two games, averaging 9.5 points per game as Baraboo’s main 3-point threat. Hannagan provides athleticism and has attacked the basket on the way to averaging 10.0 points per game through two games.
THE SKINNY: This is a bit of a transition season for Baraboo. Michael Behl and the coaching staff are in the early phases of transitioning the program to a fast-paced system that emphasizes pressing, creating turnovers, attacking quickly on offense and prioritizing 3-pointers. It’s going to be an adjustment for a group of players that isn’t used to playing that style, but Behl hopes that the T-Birds are clicking by the end of the season. With just one senior on the roster in Lindsay Johnson, if the T-Birds can find their footing in the system this year, it could set them up for a big season next year… Lexi Johnson and Lia Kieck are going to make everything go this year. Johnson is averaging 12.0 points per game this year, playing point guard and taking on extra duties as Kieck has missed the first two games with injuries. Once Kieck returns, her and Johnson will give Baraboo a pair of versatile players that should create problems in their new system… The T-Birds would like to surround that duo with 3-point shooters, as they are looking to take at least 36 3-pointers per game and score at least 70 points per game. A lot of that offensive output will begin on the defensive end of the floor, where the T-Birds are looking to force more than 20 turnovers per game and create quick possessions for themselves. Haley Hannagan and Megan Horstman will play key roles in the Baraboo press, while the T-Birds are looking to establish enough depth that they will be able to run as much as they would like… Behl knows that there will be growing pains in the new system, but he believes that Baraboo will have the ability to knock a couple teams off and compete in the middle of the Badger North Conference standings.
BEAVER DAM GOLDEN BEAVERS
HEAD COACH: Tim Chase, 13th year (200-92).
LAST SEASON: 28-0 overall record, first in the Little Ten Conference, defeated Cudahy 52-33 in the WIAA Division 2 state championship game.
PROGRAM HISTORY: Beaver Dam has won the Little Ten Conference the last eight seasons dating back to the 2009-10 season, but is now entering the Badger North Conference. The Golden Beavers have been to the state tournament three times; 1991, 2010 and 2017.
KEY DEPARTURES: The Golden Beavers lost two key contributors from last season in Cassidy Trotter, who is now playing at Michigan Tech, and Kara Crowley, who walked on at the University of Wisconsin. Trotter is the program’s all-time scoring leader (1,159 points), and also holds program records for most career free throws (288), most career steals (316), and is second in career assists (277). Crowley was a key ingredient to last year’s state championship team. Alexa Brooks, who is now at UW-Eau Claire, was also a leader on last year’s team.
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Tara Stauffacher (11.35 ppg, 4.5 rpg),Paige Schumann (8.25 ppg, 3.17 apg), Afton Bartol (7.42 ppg, 4.1 rpg), Jada Donaldson (3.92 ppg, 2.25 apg), Maryn Ferron (6.57 ppg), Aly Van Loo (4.96 ppg, 2.85 rpg).
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: Keep a close eye on freshman Matyson Wilke, who already has scholarship offers to Wisconsin, Marquette, Minnesota, Indiana, North Dakota, UW-Green Bay, UW-Milwaukee and Iowa.
THE SKINNY: There’s not an unselfish player among the Golden Beavers. That’s what makes Beaver Dam so good; a secret ingredient if you will. Chase expressed that in order to win players have to sacrifice. Van Loo split time with Bartol at center, but mostly came off the bench. Van Loo still caught the eye of North Dakota coaches and committed to play there over the summer. Donaldson was a dominant defender that teams needed to plan against as a role player. The key for the Golden Beavers is to mesh as well as they did last season. Losing Trotter and Crowley hurt, but Beaver Dam replaces them with a couple of incoming freshmen. Like UConn in women’s college basketball, Beaver Dam reloads instead of rebuilds. The team isn’t worried about repeating as state champions, but the expectations are as high as ever and the Beavers expect to play faster than last year. With an up-tempo offense that Chase runs, teams in the Badger North better be well-conditioned and ready to run up and down the court.
HEAD COACH: Jerry Schwenn, third year (31-17).
LAST SEASON: The Norskies went 15-9 overall and finished second in the Badger North Conference at 9-3. The team reached the regional final, falling to eventual state qualifier Monroe 60-38.
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 2014.
KEY DEPARTURES: The Norskies graduated six seniors last season, including starters Ariel Spillner (7.9 ppg) and Jaylee Grundahl (6.2). DeForest will also have to replace the production of Kylie Endres (6.6 ppg) and all-conference sophomore Sopheea Mink, who will not play this season.
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Junior center Aleah Grundahl, sophomore forward Megan Mickelson and junior forward Quincy Midthun.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Freshman Grace Roth has made an immediate impact, scoring nine points in the Norskies season opening 57-43 loss to Madison Edgewood.
THE SKINNY: The Norskies return eight letterwinners, but will need to replace some key offensive production, but the team should be toward the top of the Badger North. Schwenn believes that the returnees are ready to take on bigger roles this season, and that “length, varsity experience, and team chemistry” will go a long way. The greatest area of concern going into the 2017-18 season for DeForest is outside shooting.
MOUNT HOREB VIKINGS
HEAD COACH: Bill Freidig, second year (16-7).
LAST SEASON: The Vikings went 16-7 overall and finished third in the Badger North Conference at 8-4. Mount Horeb fell to Waunakee in a regional semifinal, 52-48.
PROGRAM HISTORY: Mount Horeb has never won the Badger North Conference since its inception in 2002-03, finishing no better than third in 2002-03 and last year. The Vikings have one state tournament appearance, finishing runner-up in 1996.
KEY DEPARTURES: The Vikings graduated five seniors, including four starters from last year’s team. Gone are four of the team’s top six scorers, including first team All-Badger North honoree Nikki Arneson (15.2 ppg) and second team picks Jessi Fisher (8.1 ppg) and Gabby Coulthard (7.8).
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Senior guard Sydney King, senior guard Lindsey LaBorde and junior forward Sarah Toay.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: Toay averaged just 2.1 points per game last season, but has been one of the team’s top scorers this season. Junior guard Alivia McCormick, senior Brei Nesheim and freshman Julia Magnuson are two other players to watch for.
THE SKINNY: The Vikings won more than 15 games for the first time in 16 years but return just one regular starter from last year’s squad. With so many departures, Mt. Horeb may be due for a setback, but Freidig believes his team will finish in the top half of the conference. King returns as the team’s point guard after earning all-conference honorable mention honors last season and 6-foot-4 sophomore Elise Goetzinger joins the basketball team after leading the volleyball team to a Badger North conference title.
HEAD COACH: Jessica Howe, first season.
LAST SEASON: 11-11 overall, fourth in the Badger North Conference at 7-5, lost 50-37 to Oregon in a WIAA 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. … Portage hasn’t had much postseason success in recent years, as the Warriors haven’t won a tournament game since beating Prairie du Chien in the opening round in 2007. Portage has lost its last 11 postseason games, but that includes losses in 2015 and 2016 when the Warriors did have an opening round bye. ... Portage does have some tournament success in its past though, 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. Portage was led that year by Jane Lobenstein, who was named Wisconsin’s Miss Basketball before going on to play at Iowa State.
KEY DEPARTURES: Graduation wasn’t kind to the Warriors, as four of the team’s top five scorers last season will need to be replaced. Among the players to graduate in the spring was senior Melissa Leet. The 6-foot-4 center averaged 8.3 points per game, and was the defensive force in the lane for the Warriors, but is now playing at the University of North Dakota. Also gone are Grace Wilson (9.5 ppg), Clara Beck (7.9 ppg) and Heidi Considine (5.9 ppg).
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Junior MacKenzie Roth is the team’s top returning scorer (7.9 ppg), but seniors Hanne Anderson (2.2 ppg) and Erin Kibby were both regulars on varsity last season. Junior Tessa Wilson will certainly see an increased role after averaging 5.4 points last year as a sophomore, while juniors Morgan Bisch and Taylor Bretsch are coming back after an injury-plagued 2016-17 season.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: Junior Taylor Bretsch got a taste of playing at the varsity level last season for the Warriors before having to sit out due to injury. Head coach Jessica Howe thinks Bretsch could be a player to watch heading into the season. “I still don’t think she looks at herself as a major scorer, but we’ve seen it for years, so we’re waiting for Taylor to find that out,” Howe said. “She’s going to have a major game, and I think she will cross over into scoring land.”
THE SKINNY: With a new head coach and four of the team’s top five scorers from last season graduated, there are a lot of unknowns for the Warriors heading into a new season. The one thing Portage does have going for them is junior guard MacKenzie Roth coming back. Roth averaged 7.9 points per game game a year ago and earned honorable mention from the conference coaches. “When you watch MacKenzie play, you know she’s a gifted athlete, and she’s a good basketball player too. She sees the court really well. At the same time, she can score anytime she wants,” Howe said. Senior guard Hanne Anderson and senior forward Erin Kibby also both return after contributing on varsity a year ago. Anderson “is always the hardest working person” on the floor according to Howe. Kibby is one of the team’s best passes according to Howe. “She sees the court and she understands our offense,” Howe said. … Junior guard Tessa Wilson will be asked to pick up some of the scoring lost to graduation. “She can put up points. She can hammer through the lane. She can stop on a dime for a pull-up,” Howe said of Wilson. … Junior Morgan Bisch missed all of last season with a knee injury, but is back and ready to contribute. “Mo is a shooter. She’s going to work hard on getting that back, and she’s going to come out even better,” Howe said of Bisch. … Sophomore McKena Yelk, Katelyn Belleau and Brianna Bradner will all be regular contributors this season. … One thing the Warriors are lacking this season is height. At 5-11, Yelk is the team’s tallest player. “That’s as tall as we get, so our scrappiness is important, and playing good defense so the ball doesn’t get to the post,” Howe said, “and if it does, we get the miss rebounds. That’s what we’re going to have to figure out.”
HEAD COACH: Mark Simon, 11th year (176-88).
LAST SEASON: 10-13 overall, sixth in the Badger North Conference at 3-9, lost 55-45 to Baraboo in a WIAA Division 2 regional.
PROGRAM HISTORY: Outside of the past two years, Reedsburg has had a winning season for 13 years straight. The Beavers most recently became conference champions in 2004-05, when they went 18-5 on the year and 11-2 in the Badger North. Despite their success, the Beavers made the program’s lone state tournament appearance back in 2012.
KEY DEPARTURES: Starting guard Claire Sprecher was the only senior to graduate from last year’s team. Sprecher was the team’s fourth highest scorer with 9.2 points per game.
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Junior point guard Ava Douglas, senior guard Brooklyn Schyvinck, junior Julia Korklewski.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: Sophomore Kaitlyn Zunker logged plenty of minutes during her freshman year last season and will likely be a bigger contributor this season.
THE SKINNY: Having only graduated one senior, the Beavers return nearly all of their points from last season. The Beavers have a complete offensive package, with junior Julia Korklewski (11.2 ppg) leading the way out on the perimeter, after the honorable mention all-conference selection hit 72 of her 3-pointers last season, good for a new school record. Senior Brooklyn Schyvinck was a All-Badger North Conference first team pick last season, tying Korklewski with 11.2 ppg). Schyvinck not only provides height for the team, but the athletic, three-sport athlete has skill getting to the hoop and can also create space for easy jump shots. Not far behind on last year’s scoring statistics is junior Ava Douglas, who will be the team’s primary point guard for her third year. Douglas’ energy and grit makes her a threat in and out of the paint, and coach Simon has high expectations for her after she got stronger in the offseason. Douglas (10.5 ppg) was an honorable mention all-conference pick last season. Reedsburg will also feature junior guard Alyssa Straka (3.9 ppg), who likes to pull down rebounds on both sides of the court and blends well with the other four. The final starter will be junior guard Skyler Miller (3.6 ppg), who is known for her defensive skills and uses her speed to create openings.
SAUK PRAIRIE EAGLES
HEAD COACH: Amber Fiene, first year.
LAST SEASON: 3-20 overall, last in the Badger North Conference at 1-11, lost 69-66 at Monona Grove in a WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinal.
PROGRAM HISTORY: The Eagles’ last conference championship came when they went 20-5 overall, including 10-3 in conference play, and shared the Badger North title with Waunakee in 2009-10. The Eagles suffered a 51-49 loss to Richland Center in the Division 2 regional finals that year… Sauk Prairie’s last winning season came in 2009-10. Since then, the Eagles went .500 in 2013-14 and have had seven or fewer wins the last three years... Sauk Prairie has never qualified for the state tournament.
KEY DEPARTURES: Sauk Prairie graduated six seniors, including All-Badger North Conference honorees Taylor Greenheck and Lydia Breunig. Greenheck was a two-time first-team all-conference selection, scoring a team-high 15.4 points per game last season before moving on to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Breunig averaged 11.4 points per game last season, earning an honorable mention all-conference nod for the second straight year.
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Senior forward Hannah Schneider, junior guard Taylor Breininger, junior guard Camryn Ballweg and junior guard Riley Breunig.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: Sophomore guard Ella Schad and freshman guard Naomi Breunig both bring quickness and athleticism to a team that is looking to get up and down the floor. The duo will be a key part in the ability of Sauk Prairie’s press to create turnovers.
THE SKINNY: Fiene replaced Brian Lutz to become Sauk Prairie’s fourth coach in the last five seasons. The Eagles won their season opener against River Valley before dropping back-to-back games to Monona Grove and Waunakee. ... Sauk Prairie is aiming to return to competitiveness in the Badger North Conference. To do so, the Eagles are looking to play an entertaining brand of basketball that emphasizes pressuring the ball, creating turnovers and turning those turnovers into quick offense. Therefore, Sauk Prairie is going to need everyone on the roster to contribute. The Eagles appear to have solid depth, including a five-player junior class that all gained varsity experience last season… While the Eagles are deep, they might be lacking go-to scorers that can get a basket when needed, a role that Taylor Greenheck and Lydia Breunig filled last season… Riley Breunig is the leading returning scorer after averaging 7.2 points per game last season. Taylor Breininger scored 4.2 points per game last season, a number that will likely take a big leap as she will handle a large portion of the ballhandling duties… Freshman Naomi Breunig is averaging a team-high 10.3 points per game through Sauk Prairie’s 1-2 start, followed by Breunig (9.7 ppg) and Breininger (9.7 ppg). Hannah Schneider and Camryn Ballweg are also back after averaging 3.8 points per game and 3.2 points per game, respectively, last season… But everything is going to start on the defensive end for the Eagles, who are going to pressure the ball the length of the floor… Schneider is part of a four-player senior class that also includes Kayla Breunig, Julia Ballweg and Ashlea Frey.
HEAD COACH: Tom Lesar, third year (37-11).
LAST SEASON: The Warriors went 17-6 overall and finished first in the Badger North Conference at 10-2. Waunakee lost to Stoughton 68-40 in a regional final.
PROGRAM HISTORY: Waunakee has finished no worse than third in the Badger North each of the last eight years and won four Badger North titles, including at least a share of the last two. The Warriors have six state tournament appearances, most recently in 2015, winning a state championship in 1993.
KEY DEPARTURES: The Warriors graduated six seniors, including third-leading scorer Morgan Rice (9.6 ppg) and Kennedy McCarthy (3.9 ppg). Along with the seniors, Waunakee took a hit with the loss of senior Morgan Greiber (10.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg), who opted not to come out this year.
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Senior center Cici Rindy (11.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg), junior guard Maddie Farnsworth (8.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg).
BREAKOUT CANDIDATES: Junior Caitlyn Kesilewski, who averaged 2 points per game last year, has emerged a potential high-scoring threat for the Warriors. Senior Sam Statz and junior Kacie Murry averaged 2.9 and 2.8 ppg last year and will be relied upon more this season.
THE SKINNY: Rindy, a Division II Maryville University commit, is one of the conference’s top seniors, providing a deft touch around the basket and scoring and rebounding punch when needed. With Rindy, along with Kesileswki and a strong returning cast, the Warriors will be towards the top of the conference again alongside newcomers Beaver Dam. How the team makes up for the loss of Greiber will be a key question mark. “With this being year three in our system, everyone should be even more comfortable on both ends of the court,” Lesar said.