Girls: Speed is key

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Ashley Berggren had enough of the stands. She wanted back in the game. Now, she's coach of the Steamboat Springs girls basketball team, the first woman in charge of the program since 1978.

"She knows what she's talking about," senior Kayla Kostur said.

The job with Steamboat is Berggren's first as a coach, but she brings a wealth of playing experience to the sidelines and to practice.

Berggren was a star at the University of Illinois in the mid-1990s. She helped lead the Fighting Illini to a Sweet 16 berth in the NCAA Tournament in 1998. Berggren left Illinois as the all-time leading scorer in school history (2,089 points) and as fifth all-time in the prestigious Big Ten Conference.

She was named Big Ten Player of the Year while playing at Illinois from 1994 to 1998. She also spent a year playing for the Chicago Condors in the American Basketball League before the league failed.

The girls on the team seem to care little that she has never coached before.

"I think she's great," junior Jessica Peters said. "She starts with the basics and the little things. I see her as a player teaching us what she knows."

Berggren hopes to serve as a coach and a positive female role model for a relatively young Steamboat squad with plenty of potential.

"It's nice to be back involved," Berggren said. "We started with camps last week. I didn't know all that much about the team, and I hope the players took that as a challenge. They have a lot of enthusiasm, and they are a group willing to take change. They've responded well to the adjustments."

Berggren replaces Steve Moos, who led Steamboat to winning seasons during the past two years. The Sailors don't have a lot of height this season, but they likely will have the quickest and most athletic team in the Western Slope League this year.

And that starts with the guards. Berggren doesn't have a full roster or starting lineup solidified because the first game isn't until the Roaring Fork Tournament on Dec. 3. Peters and juniors Missy Chotvacs and Missy Labor did not start last year, but they got quality playing time during the season, and likely will figure into the starting lineup this year.

"They are intense," Berggren said.

Down low, Kostur will be asked to lead the team, and she has shown a knack for getting to the foul line. Other seniors on this year's team are Madison Proper, Abby Johnson and Katie Darlington.

This year, Kostur knows she will have to get up the court quickly or she may miss the opportunity to even touch the ball.

"We're quick," Berggren said. "We're basically a transition and running team."

And that's fine with Peters, a state champion in the 400 meters.

"I want to fast break," she said. "Everyone on this team can run."

Steamboat opens the season with a scrimmage against Grand Junction Central. The home season begins with the Steamboat Shootout Basketball Tournament from Dec. 9 to 11.

League play opens Jan. 8 against Moffat County, the favorite to win the title this season.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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