By Brian Kalish
November 6, 2018
Wausau– Around this time last year, there probably weren’t very many people outside of the 54401 ZIP code who predicted that the Newman Catholic girls basketball team would make it all the way to state.
This year, it’s a different story.
The 2017-18 Cardinals had a successful regular season where they finished third in the ultra-competitive Marawood South behind Marathon and Stratford, respectively, with a 11-5 conference record.
But it was in the postseason where the Cardinals really flexed their muscles.
Newman mowed down their first two regional opponents, survived an epic overtime battle in the regional final against Assumption, then cruised through the sectional to advance to state.
So with that success, not to mention a team that returns all but one starter from last year’s squad, it’s safe to say that the Cardinals aren’t going to be flying under anyone’s radar this season.
And that’s just fine with head coach Jason Vanden Elzen.
“In the Wissports preseason poll*, we were picked to win the Marawood South, and that’s a target we’re going to have on our back,” said Vanden Elzen, who enters his fourth year at the the helm of the Newman girls basketball program. “It’s a good problem to have. We already know we’re going to get the best from everybody out there. We just need to go out there, win at each practice, focus on winning each possession in games and not worry about when we play Wausau West or when we play Auburndale or Assumption. We need to focus on winning now and we can set ourselves up for the success we had last year in February and March.”
While Newman loses Signe Fronek to graduation, their returners possess enough experience and talent to turn opposing teams’ lights out.
Mackenzie Krach is the lone senior and looks to fill the leadership vacuum created by Fronek’s absence.
“I obviously want people to look up to me and feel comfortable with me and look to me for leadership,” Krach said. “But, I think it’s not just one person. Everyone on the team is contributing a bunch of leadership, especially the juniors this year. They’re all stepping up.”
“Kenzie’s definitely going to be a great leader for us,” Vanden Elzen said. “She’s not afraid to do all the little things that I love. She does the job no matter what.”
Meanwhile, juniors Julia Seidel, Jadelyn Ganski and Lauren Shields comprise the core that will fuel Newman’s offensive attack.
Seidel averaged 13 points as a sophomore and is deadly from beyond the arc, Ganski averaged over 12 points and has the size and athletic ability to play inside or out, and Shields was a major contributor in the playoffs, including a game-winning drive and score to knock off Assumption in the regional final.
“Our strengths are probably (our) experience,” Seidel said. “Lauren Shields, Jadelyn and I have all played varsity since freshman year, and there are a couple other juniors who have played last year… It’s really heavily juniors, and we’ve all worked together since sixth grade, we’ve been playing together so that’s a big strength too.”
Krach, Seidel and Vanden Elzen each mentioned that while the trip to the Resch Center last year didn’t go exactly the way they wanted it to, the experience provided them with plenty of motivation to get back to state in 2018 and finish the job.
It might only be the first day of practice– the Cardinals won’t even face a live opponent until November 15 when they square off against Auburndale to open the season– but the expectations are sky high for the team this year.
And the Cardinals are looking forward to proving they’re up to the challenge.
*Editor’s note: WSN requires a subscription to view their conference previews
Check out the CWS YouTube Channel for full interviews with Seidel and Krach, plus more videos throughout the season.