PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend High School girls basketball team looks to make a fourth straight trip to the Class 2A state tournament as the 2004-2005 season gets under way early next month.
The Redskins will have to do it under a new coach and without their toughest rebounding presence from last season.
Randy Maag takes over for John Stroeder, who spent seven years at the helm.
“We have basically three-fifths of the starting lineup back from last year,” said Maag, who has spent eight years in the Port Townsend High School coaching ranks, including as head coach of the junior varsity boys team last season.
Seniors Hana Wilson (5-foot-9 guard), Stephanie Kirkendoll (5-6 guard), and Rosie Amico (5-7 forward) are all returning starters.
“Our strength is the fact that we can get out and run,” Maag said. “Rebounding is going to be a challenge for us.”
Lexi Paoli and Alaina Fountain, last season’s leaders under the glass, have since graduated.
“We’ll probably play a little more man (defense) than they played (last season) and definitely more up-tempo,” Maag said. “We’re pretty athletic and can run the floor.”
Also back from last season’s 20-9 team are Elizabeth Fountain (5-6 junior guard), Ashley Wilfong (5-8 senior forward), Lisa Tuttle (5-0 senior guard), and Erica Amico (5-10 junior post).
“(We’re) absolutely expecting a return to state,” Maag said. “For those seniors to get one more crack at it. To not just get to state but to play on that last day.”
The Redskins, who play in the Nisqually League, went 1-2 at state last season and have not placed in the top-eight during any of their three recent tournament trips.
Team newcomers include freshmen Caitlin Rich and Jessie Holbrook and sophomore Aimee Larson.
Port Townsend opens with home games on Dec. 1 against Class 4A Central Kitsap and Dec. 3 versus Chelan, which placed fourth at last year’s Class 2A Tournament.
“We’ll definitely know where we’re at pretty quickly statewide,” Maag said.
CHIMACUM — Five juniors, all playing their third year of varsity ball, will anchor the Cowboys.
“A lot of them have been starting since they’ve been freshmen, too,” said head coach Jim Eldridge, also in his third year with the team.
“It means hopefully that we can compete,” he said. “We lost some close games last year and hopefully we can pull those games out.”
The Junior Five are Caitlin Eldridge (5-7 forward/guard), Bethany Friedrich (5-5 guard), Jovi Monroe (5-5 guard), Chantel Arey (5-7 forward), and Kaity Gale (5-9 post).
Another junior, Hillary Andrus (6-0 post), is spending a year as an exchange student in Denmark. The Cowboys lost just one player to graduation.
Senior Paige Worley (5-6 guard/forward) is also back from last year’s 6-16 team.
Sophie Bowe (5-5 sophomore guard) switched between junior varsity and varsity last season and will spend most of her time on varsity this year, said Jim Eldridge.
Jessica Bainbridge (5-4 sophomore guard) and Taia Colton (5-6 sophomore forward) will move between the two levels of play.
“We’re going to have to really run the floor,” Eldridge said.
New to this season’s team are Kylie Gering (5-5 freshman guard) and Heather Gale (5-8 senior post/forward).
“We have a good group this year and they’re working hard,” Eldridge said. “I think we’ll be really competitive.”
The Cowboys, who play in the Nisqually League, open with a Dec. 7 nonleague home game against Neah Bay.
The Spartans are coming off their first non-losing regular season in 14 years but lost 80 percent of their offensive scoring with the graduation of five seniors, including three starters.
“We need to replace it,” second-year head coach Todd Fraker said. “We’re hoping increased defensive intensity will help counter that.”
Two returning starters — Stef Weed (5-4 senior guard) and Tessa Leppell (5-7 junior guard/forward) — will help lead Forks’ next generation.
Other returning seniors include Kim Church (5-4 guard), Tab Gaydeski (5-9 post), and Christa Peterson (5-5 post).
Junior Kelly Santman (5-8 post) played most of last season on the junior varsity team and will step up this season. She suited up for the varsity club during its trip to the Southwest District 2A Tournament last season.
“We are planning to go to districts and I definitely see us playing in the game to go to state again,” Fraker said.
Forks lost that game last winter and finished 11-12 overall, including the playoffs.
The Spartans were 10-10 during the regular season.
Three freshmen will see varsity action for the Spartans — Madison Justus (5-8 post), Maegan Leppell (5-5 guard/forward), and Julie Steveson (5-3 guard).
Avery Ironhill (5-6 junior guard/forward) and Jessica Simons (5-3 junior guard) are also on the roster.
Fraker expects Elma and Hoquiam to be near the top of the Southwest Washington League.
“I think we should be right in the mix to compete with them,” he said.
Full-court man-to-man defense and a fast-break offense will highlight the Spartans’ style.Forks opens with a Dec. 3 nonleague home game against Sequim.