By Jason Wesseldyk
New season, same goal.
That pretty well sums up Saugatuck coach Kevin Tringali as he prepares his team for the 2017-18 campaign.
“Our goal every year is to compete for a conference championship,” Tringali said. “We fully expect—like every year—to be in the hunt and to battle night in and night out.
“This year will be interesting from the standpoint of the new conference alignment. Apparently we are the smallest school in our new division. But this is not going to detract us from our goals.”
Not that Tringali expects achieving those goals to be easy as he expects several teams to be in contention for the top spot in the league.
“Until someone knocks off Gobles, you have to give them the nod,” Tringali said. “They are well-coached and have a great tradition. I also think last year’s co-champ in Watervliet will be back strong despite losing a few key players to graduation. I believe their JV team went undefeated last season. And you certainly can’t count out Coloma.”
One advantage the Indians have over some other teams in the league is experience at the varsity level as eight players are back from last year’s team.
That includes junior guard/forward Maddie Moore, who emerged as Saugatuck’s top offensive force last season.
“Maddie is coming off a phenomenal summer,” Tringali said. “Between playing on a high-level travel team and her high school team, she has really improved her strength, skill set and leadership.”
Seniors Claire Stannis (post), Melody Antel (guard) and Mel Goodell (guard/forward) also return, as do juniors Erin Stannis (post), Lexi Borst (guard), Morgan Beckman (post) and Natalie Beckman (post).
“I’d like to think our strength is our depth and varsity experience,” Tringali said. “All eight of our returning players were significant contributors to last year’s team.”
One area of concern for Saugatuck is the point guard position.
“Despite all our depth we are still very light at point guard,” Tringali said. “Maddie, of course, is more than capable to handle it, but we want to really showcase her versatility and athleticism at different positions.”
Enter freshmen Emma and Karissa Walker.
“Bringing up two unproven freshmen (to play point guard) can be a concern,” Tringali said. “With this said, after closely watching them all summer, there is no doubt they can handle their business at the varsity level. They are two of the better athletes in our entire school. Both are extremely quick and what I love most of all is their desire to compete.”
First-year senior Emily Myers rounds out the roster.
It’s one of those proverbial good news/bad news situations for Fennville as it prepares for the upcoming season.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first:
The Blackhawks are coming off a season in which they, with a young squad, won only three games. And they’ll be on the young side again this season, with only two returning seniors on the roster.
Now for the good:
Fennville has a total of five returning letter winners who gained valuable experience a season ago, with three of those players returning starters.
First-year coach Chip Nightingale will rely heavily on those returning players to lead the way for his team.
“One of our strengths is we have a lot of returning players to work with,” he said. “Experience is going to help us be more competitive.”
And being competitive on a consistent basis is what Fennville is hoping to achieve.
“Our main goal this year is to compete every game,” said Nightingale, who is taking over following a two-year stint by Cory Howard.
Forwards Kaylay Dumont and Josie Galiger are the returning seniors, with juniors Holly Laraway (forward) and Nadia Allen (center) also back along with sophomore guard Coryne Howard.
“As of right now we are a much better shooting team than last season,” Nightingale said.
Defense, however, remains a work in progress.
“We’re young and we don’t play great defense right now,” Nightingale said. “We need to be able to get rebounds and prevent second shots.”
The mental side of the game is another area in which Nightingale hopes to help Fennville improve.
“We play in a good league and one of our goals is to win the league,” he said. “But for us it’s going to start with believing we can win the league.”