With a young team with no seniors on the roster, Park generally took their lumps last season.
This time around, however the Wolfpack girls basketball team will take the court this season with a much more experienced, deeper team.
Last year’s Park varsity team had no seniors, just three juniors along with seven sophomores and five ninth graders. Most of the starters on this year’s team have been playing on the varsity for two seasons.
“We have a really strong, experienced, group of kids coming back,” said head coach Stephanie Tolkinen. “I’m very excited for what we have.”
Back for the Wolfpack are senior guard/small forward Justine Jameson (15.8 ppg)), sophomore guard Tori Henderson (5.7 ppg), senior guard Elsa Olson, (7.6 ppg) junior guards Bryleigh Dana (2.4 ppg) and Emma Ambroz (4.7 ppg), senior forward Avery Corrigan (2.9 ppg), sophomore guard Emma Taschner (1.2 ppg).
“I’m really excited about Photo by John Molene those kids who are coming back who had varsity experience for the past two years,” said Tolkinen.
A key newcomer will be Sydnee Nelson, who averaged 13 points per game for Red Wing last season.
“She’s a natural point guard,” Tolkinen said. “She changes the dynamic of our team.”
Adding to the mix is Reegan Schwartz moves up to the varsity this season.
Not back for the Wolfpack are guard Edie Walton (7.5 ppg) who tore her ACL during a late summer workout and will miss her junior year, and guard/forward Juliana Lane who tore her meniscus. Tolkinen has hopes Lane will be back for the second half of the season as her versatile abilities to play different positions and at the top of the defense made her very valuable.
“We do have a lot to work with,” said Tolkinen. “Now we have all these kids who have varsity experience and it’s trying to figure out how do we get a rotation and how do we get them in and it’s not about sharing minutes it’s about how do we make the most of the talent that we have and really play to our strengths.”
Park’s strengths should be overall quickness, shooting, attacking ability. Weaknesses will be a lack of size.
“If our defense can just make some stops this year for us I think our offense will take care of itself,” Tolkinen said. “That defensive mentality, we have to get better at it. Kids just have to want to play defense. If somebody doesn’t embrace it you’re not going to see it out there. I think these kids will challenge each other enough in practice. It’s now getting them to the next level.”
Park was just 5-14 last season and 5-13 in the Suburban East Conference, finishing seventh.
Expectations are higher this time around. Tolkinen thinks Park can challenge to be in the top three or four of the Suburban East Conference this winter.
“I’d love to get back to a section championship,’ Tolkinen said. “I think that’s totally realistic.”
Park hosts Eagan to open the season Tuesday, Nov. 30, starting at 7 p.m.