By Brian Kalish
November 8, 2018
Wausau– The D.C. Everest girls basketball program has been the king of the hill in the Wisconsin Valley Conference over the better part of the last half decade, but that run of dominance– a stretch in which they either shared the conference title or won it outright in four out of the last five years– will face a serious test in 2018-19.
Gone are all of the Evergreens’ starters from a 2017-18 squad that fought to a 11-1 record in the Valley and earned a share of the conference crown with arch-rival SPASH.
Yes, all five starters from last year graduated, including conference Co-Player of the Year and NCAA Division 1 Youngstown State recruit Taylor Petit.
So while the team will be suiting up a healthy number of seniors this season– eight to be exact– there is an experience gap that the Evergreens need to close in order to retain their upper echelon status in the Valley.
“We lost a lot of kids from last year,” Everest head coach Matt Bullis said. “This year has been a very new experience for a lot of kids. It’s their first varsity experience, outside of a few kids. So we’ve slowed it down a little bit and make sure that we’re teaching the little things that maybe, in years when you have kids that this is their third year on varsity, you can kind of maybe gloss over. So it’s just kind of going back and making sure that we kind of detail everything that we’re trying to accomplish and why. It’s a great group of kids, but they’re very short on experience.”
Looking to step up and fill the experience vacuum for the Evergreens are team captains Gabby Anderson, Malorie Schmoll and Alexis Wojnowiak, all of whom are seniors.
All three captains identified team chemistry as a strength of the 2018-19 unit.
“It’s really exciting being a senior this year and being able to create our own team chemistry,” said Schmoll. “We have eight seniors this year and we’ve all played together since the fourth grade. So it’s really fun to have us all back out on the wood floor together instead of being on the JV and varsity separately.”
Anderson echoed Schmoll’s thoughts.
“I think our biggest strength is working the post and guards together, having that chemistry,” said Anderson. “Having that chemistry on the court is really important.”
Bullis plans to use the team’s early practices and their first game action– Everest will square off against Hudson at home on November 16– to get a sense of which rotations are going to work best.
Despite the turnover in the roster, Bullis won’t be making any wholesale changes to their offensive or defensive schemes. Schmoll and Anderson figure to play key roles in the back court for the Evergreens with Wojnowiak spearheading the inside attack.
“We’ll play pretty much the same way we have been,” Bullis said. “We like to press it when we can. It depends on match ups and athleticism, that kind of thing. And then we’ll run our man offense where we kind of play around one post.”
There is a long way to go before the conference schedule kicks in, but performing well against Valley opponents is at the forefront of the Evergreens’ minds. They will have their work cut out for them in that respect, as Wausau West and SPASH have emerged as early-season favorites to challenge for the conference’s top spot.
“I think our conference is always good,” Bullis said. “I think Wausau West and SPASH are clearly the front runners. Both have talented kids on their teams. For us it’s a little different because we’ve won four of the last five conference titles and we’ve always been picked in that first or second spot. This year we’re a little lower, so I think it takes a little pressure off… I think realistically for us, it’s trying to figure out how we can come together as a team and give ourselves a shot to stay in the conference race as long as possible.”