Saturday, November 24, 2001
Steamboat Springs The standard in the Western Slope league this season might be set by the team with the fewest players.
"North Park is definitely the team to beat in our conference," said Mike Johnson, Grand Valley head coach.
The Wildcats won the league title last year and head coach Randy Hodgson thinks his team will make another run this year.
"Our kids won it as sophomores and I expect them to do well as juniors," Hodgson.
The Grand Valley coach said the team may not have a lot of girls out this year, but they are loaded with talent. Top returning players will include Erin Robben and Scotland Wittenberg who challenged opposing players last season and are expected to do the same this year.
North Park only has a total of 10 girls out, but four of the five started as sophomores. The team has no seniors on the roster this season, but plenty of experience.
While North Park is the first team most coaches in the league mention when discussing the league championship, Hodgson isn't sure his team will dominate the league by any measure.
"I think the league is going to be very close this year," he said. "I think Grand Valley and Soroco are going to be right there."
Grand Valley will also return four of five starters despite losing six seniors last season.
Leading the way for the Cardinals is junior post player Jenni Hirneisen, senior shooting guard Desiree Brownson, and point guard Denisse Roman. All three players were named all conference last year.
Johnson said he expects to finish second in the league behind North Park. However, he also thinks both Soroco and Hayden will be pushing his team for the runners-up slot.
"I think most of the teams in this league will be playing for second place," Hayden coach Don Rolando said.
Soroco lost all but one starter last season, but will return a host of talented players that contributed last season.
Head coach Bob Johnson thinks the Rams will be competitive and could even surprise a few of the top teams in the league this year.
Hayden's Rolando is also expecting to be very competitive this season. He lost most of his top players from last season, but says he also returns a host of talent. West Grand lost a good part of last year's starting lineup and Plateau Valley is expected to be down this season.
The school just hired a new head coach six days before practice started, according to Mike Johnson, so no one really knows what to expect from the Cowboys.