Junior-heavy team can count experience as one of its assets in preparing for North Shore battles
Looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to Grafton girlsâ€™ basketball.
Although the Black Hawks have only one senior this season, thereâ€™s no dearth of talent on their roster.
Their lineup features a solid group of juniors from a squad that went 16-11 last season and reached a WIAA sectional final for the fourth straight year.
â€śWe have a young team, but itâ€™s a good group, and I really like them a lot,â€ť Hawks coach Bob Maronde said.
â€śTheyâ€™ve got a bit of a tough edge to them. Theyâ€™re like little Rambos running around out there.
â€śWhen they make mistakes, they bounce right back. Thereâ€™s a lot of resiliency.â€ť
Thereâ€™s plenty of skill, as well.
Graftonâ€™s lone senior is Abbey Benzschawel, a 6-foot-1-inch center whose improved play last season culminated in a 17-point, 11-rebound performance in a sectional final against New Berlin Eisenhower.
â€śAbbey really stepped up for us as a leader,â€ť Maronde said. â€śShe started playing with great confidence.â€ť
The Hawksâ€™ other veterans include five juniors who contributed last year â€” forwards Hannah Eichler (5-11), Tess Safstrom (5-8) and Kimmi Schacht (5-11) and guards
Carley Pfannerstill (5-3) and Emily Schreiner (5-8).
Eichler, a two-year varsity player, earned All-North Shore Conference second-team honors as a sophomore, when she averaged nine points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 3.5 assists per game. Her versatility allows her to play in the backcourt as well as the front line.
â€śI think this will be a breakout year for Hannah,â€ť Maronde said. â€śYou can see that she has much more confidence now.â€ť
Pfannerstill has been pegged as the starting point guard. Her ball-handling skills and leadership will be crucial to the teamâ€™s success.
â€śCarley has a great knack of knowing when to go and when to hold up offensively,â€ť Maronde said. â€śShe is so quick, which makes it tough on other teamsâ€™ guards.â€ť
Likewise, Schreiner and Safstrom bring quickness to the wing positions and are â€śboth solid shooting and handling the ball,â€ť Maronde said.
Schacht will bolster the Hawksâ€™ front line and â€śis very strong in the post and has a great mid-range jumper,â€ť he added.
Giving Grafton strength in reserve will be players such as juniors Symone Wright (5-4) and Emily Volkmann (5-3), sophomores Audrey Dickmann (5-6), Sam Gosewehr (6-0) and Haley Orlowski (5-7) and freshman Amanda Hunt (5-11).
â€śOverall, I like us from No. 1 to No. 12,â€ť Maronde said. â€śAll the girls are good basketball players who can contribute.â€ť
Even so, Maronde said his teamâ€™s youthful energy comes with a hitch.
â€śMy biggest concern right now with them is their ability to focus for long periods of time,â€ť he said. â€śThey can be impatient and rush things, but I think it will get better over the course of the season.â€ť
After winning conference titles in three of four seasons from 2005-06 to 2008-09, the Hawks slipped to fourth place with an 8-6 record last season. Reclaiming the top spot may be a long shot with defending champion Nicolet a heavy favorite to repeat.
However, Maronde is hoping his team will be among the leagueâ€™s best, a list he thinks will include Cedarburg, Germantown and Whitefish Bay.
â€śA lot of it depends on how we handle December,â€ť he said, noting Grafton faces a tough schedule early in the season.
The Hawks open play Tuesday, Nov. 30, by hosting Green Bay West in a 7:30 p.m. nonconference game.
They will face Milwaukee Washington on Dec. 3 and Milwaukee Bay View on Dec. 7 before opening NSC play against Homestead on Dec. 10.
Grafton then takes on Cedarburg and Nicolet in consecutive games.