Young Grizzlies aim to replace three lost seniors

COOK — North Woods lost three seniors to graduation last spring, but has several athletes looking to step up this season.

The Grizzlies graduated Sasha Strong, Kennedy Wardas and Coley Olson, according to assistant coach Liz Cheney.

Strong was a key all around player playing low and hitting threes when needed, she said. Wardas was a “spark plug and heart of the team in leadership.’’ Olson’s defensive speed will also be missed.

Who will be the key athletes returning for North Woods?

“We will be looking to Hannah Kinsey, a sophomore post, to lead us down low and Brianna Whiteman a junior, to take some leadership as our point guard this year,’’ said Cheney, the team’s assistant coach for the last five seasons.

In addition, “we have some freshmen wings that will be fun to watch develop this season (Helen Koch and Madi Dantes).’’ The team’s other strong post player this year will be sophomore Madison Spears.

The team has no seniors and only two juniors going into the 2020-21 season.

“We plan to celebrate the successes throughout the season — big and small — as we look to build over the next couple seasons.’’

Cheney believes her squad definitely has some strengths to utilize this year. “We have height on our side and the girls hustle and play hard.’’

“Our youth could be looked at as a weakness. However, in a season of uncertainty and many ups and downs our youth might be just what we need as we begin to rebuild.’’ The team is coming off an 8-19 season, with a first round playoff loss to Chisholm.

Cheney sees Mountain Iron-Buhl as the section favorite. She said the Rangers are always solid and have a respected team/program.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic was on Cheney’s mind, too, as her squad heads into the new year.

“Good luck to all the teams this season as we navigate COVID and its effect on youth sports. We are in this together to make the best out of the current situation and together we will come out ahead in the end.’’

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North Woods hosts Nashwauk-Keewatin at 7:15 p.m. today.

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