CHERRY — When the Cherry High School girls basketball team takes the floor this year, the Tigers will be missing 3,800 points with the gradation of Kaelyn Kudis and Katie Peterson, among others.
Trying to make up those points will be the single most important issue Cherry coach Tim Sauter has to deal with when the 2021 season opens next Thursday with a game against Virginia.
How the Tigers replace all of those points will be put upon the shoulders of the five seniors including, Jessa Schroetter, Kourtney Sajdek, Ellie Rich, Danielle Clement and Bailey Kowarsch.
“Most of them will play quite a bit of minutes for us,” Sauter said. “Elle and Kourtney were on the B-team last year. This year, we’re expecting bigger things out of them. You never like to see your seniors graduate, but I’m happy with the ones we have this year.
“I like to see the hunger in vying for minutes. We went two years without seniors, so this opens the door for them. It’s nice to see a bigger group. They’re excited about having the chance to earn their playing time.”
Schroetter, who is a four-year starter, did lead Cherry in scoring and rebounding last season.
“We’re hoping she can improve on those performances,” Sauter said. “Danielle and Bailey will be shooting for time at the guard spots. I do expect our points-per-game to be similar, but they won’t have that experience.
“We usually don’t lower our expectations too much. We’ll get them up-and-running at our speed.”
That speed is all-out, but with the late start, it might take some time to get there.
“Condition-wise, we might be slower than normal, but I think that after a few weeks, we’ll get our legs under us, and we’ll play at the same pace we normally do.”
Those five seniors will get some help from the junior class consisting of Lauren Staples, Kacie Zganjar and Rylee Mancina.
Staples is a two-year starter. Zganjar and Mancini will see time at the guard position.
“Lauren will have to pick up the scoring side of it,” Sauter said. “She has experience, so we’re hoping she’ll be more aggressive and take up some of the scoring and ball-handling slack.
“For Rylee and Kacie, it’s who can play more consistently to earn those extra minutes.”
The sophomore class includes Jillian Sajdak, Makenna Rich, Hailey Greenly, Isabelle Baasi and Kaylynn Cappo.
Cappo and Sajdak will be two of Sauter’s post players. Rich, Greenly and Baasi will see time at guard.
“Jillian played quite a bit last year,” Sauter said. “She had a ton of minutes. I expect her to step up her game on the rebounding and scoring end of it. She should help out in continuing to play a fast-transition game.”
The freshmen class consists of Faith Zganjar, Brooke Rinerson and Samantha Barry.
Zganjar did play last year, but injury put her out for most of the season.
With that much depth, the Tigers should be able to play their stifling man-to-man defense.
“We’re a little smaller, but we’re quicker,” Sauter said. “We should match up better against teams like Cromwell. We should be better that way.”
With the challenges of COVID-19, trying to get this team to gel with such limited time before the games begin will be another issue this season.
“It’s about blending all of these kids together, and having the ones that didn’t play for me last year, it’s getting them used to what we’re looking for,” Sauter said. “Hopefully, we can get through the games.
“With all of this on-again, off-again games that are either canceled or switched, we’ll need good mental focus to get through that. We’ll have to see how it goes as we progress.”
Putting all of that aside, Sauter is happy that his team is getting the chance to play this season.
“They kids wanted it, and they needed it,” Sauter said. “Hopefully, things are going in the right direction.”