By Rob Whitmire
The SPASH Girls Basketball team tips off its 2016-17 season Friday night traveling to Neenah High School.
Opening tip is scheduled for 7:17 PM. The junior varsity and JV2 teams take the court at 5:45 PM.
The Panthers finished the 2015-16 season with a 9-7 conference record – good for third place – and 11-11 overall.
SPASH will put a junior dominated lineup on the court this season listing just one senior — Brooke Tuszka — on the roster along with sophomores Madisyn Rogan and Abby Gemza, and freshman Leah Earnest.
The Panthers will look to the leadership of Tuszka to help fill the void left by Maggie Neggard’s loss to injury. Negaard was the Wisconsin Valley Conference Player of the Year last season topping the conference with 277 total points and a 23.1 points per game average. She also hit 84 percentage from the charity stripe.
“We’re without Maggie Negaard for much of the season due to an ACL injury,” said Panther coach Derek Kirklewski. “Madisyn Rogan, Halle Gregorich, and Jenna Bohanski will provide solid ball handling and scoring in her absence. Maddie Fink and Brooke Tuszka will provide presence in the paint and be asked to guard much bigger opponents.”
Kirklewski also said Rachel Sullivan, Halle Pavelski and Abby Gemza will provide “great ball defense, rebounding, and scoring”, and Earnest would bring “some scoring pop and length on defense”.
Sullivan, a 5’8” junior, was among the conference leaders averaging 6.6 rebounds per game and hit 71 percent of her free throws.
“Our goal is always to compete for a conference title — we want to improve from start to finish and be playing well when the playoffs roll around,” Kirklewski said. “Wausau West will be very strong this year. Marshfield and D.C. Everest will also be tough to beat but we have a very strong junior class who will need to be the leaders for our roster.”
Working alongside Kirklewski will be varsity assistant Dan Gagnon, with Katie Maultra and Brooke Walsh serving as the JV1 coaches. Andrew Fetting and Natalie Pelkey will coach the JV2 team.
Following their game at Neenah, the girls return to the friendly confines of the SPASH fieldhouse on Nov. 22 when they host Eau Claire Memorial in a 7:30 PM tilt. The JV and JV2 teams will take the court at 5:45 PM.