CHISHOLM — Last year, the Chisholm High School girls basketball team surprised everyone with their improvement.
This year, that won’t be the case.
The Bluestreaks now have to live up to that billing as one of the better teams in the northland.
That will be put on display when they open play Thursday at Deer River.
No one will take Chisholm lightly this year.
“We came in under the radar last year,” Chisholm coach Pam Pioske said. “We struggled for a couple of years, then last year, we were the underdog. We caught everybody off guard.
“Teams are going to be prepared for us, but that’s a better feeling. It’ll be a challenge when we play the other teams.”
The Bluestreaks will be led by senior point guard Sofie Anderson. Alexis MacMillan is the other senior on the team.
“Sofie has good ball-handling skills,” Pioske said. “She’s able to start our offense. I’m counting on leadership from her. Alexis has been helping out our younger girls with their skills and the plays.
“She’s proven to be a good leader, plus, we’ll need her to step up coming off the bench.”
There’s two juniors, Katie Pearson and Jordan Temple.
“They’re both good ball handlers,” Pioske said. “I will need their leadership skills this year, too.”
Lola Huhta, Hannah Kne, Jade Wolfram, Amanda Bjortmont, Olivia Hutchins and Lola Gangl make up the sophomore class.
“Both Lola (Huhta) and Hannah are our main players through our offense and defense,” Pioske said. “I’m relying on them to do some scoring for us. The other girls will be coming off of the bench.
“I need them to play their roles on the court as well.”
There are two freshmen, Tresa Baumgard and Amya Dobis-Fontaine.
Baumgard will be a force in the middle for the Bluestreaks. Dobis-Fontaine needs to gain some experience before she can make an impact on the varsity team.
“She (Baumgard) is our big, so I’m relying on her to get rebounds,” Pioske said. “She’s also good at blocking shots. That’s her best skill.”
Offensively, Pioske will run either four or five out, depending on who Chisholm is playing.
“We have good outside shooters,” she said. “If teams play a zone on us, we might rethink that, but we can shoot from the outside.”
Defensively, the Bluestreaks will put their faith in their man-to-man defense.
“That has come a long ways,” Pioske said. “It’s much better than a couple of years ago. We’re faster and more aggressive. It’s a matter of figuring things out as to how to rotate and switch up.
“Depending on how the game is going, we might switch to a zone, especially if we’re short players.”
Having a short bench could be a challenge for Chisholm this season.
“If we stay healthy, we will have a good year,” Pioske said. “The concern is COVID. If you’re not feeling well, you have to stay home. In the past, you could still come to the game.
“You could easily lose a top player for a game, and that could throw the entire thing off. With our numbers so low (14), if we lose players, we’re going to struggle.”