Girls hoops: Saugatuck Fennville eye good years
By Jason Wesseldyk
Some coaches shy away from scheduling tough opponents at the start of season. Apparently, Saugatuck’s Kevin Tringali isn’t one of those coaches.
“Hands down this is our toughest schedule yet,” Tringali said. “Our first three opponents had a combined regular-season record of 58-2 last season.”
That early season schedule will provide a challenge for the Indians. Tringali views that as a good thing.
“We look at this as an opportunity to compete with some of the best programs in the area if not the state,” he said. “We will certainly know where we are at and where we need to be early.
“I know our kids feel like they play with these upper-echelon programs.”
Saugatuck’s experienced roster should help as the Indians navigate that tough season-opening schedule. Seven players return from last season’s 7-14 squad, including four starters.
“We’re excited for the season,” Tringali said. “We feel with the experience we have coming back, we can be a very competitive team.”
Two four-year starting seniors — both 5-foot-11 wings — headline the list.
Maddie Moore returns as the team’s leading scorer, having garnered First Team All-Conference honors. Erin Stannis was named Honorable Mention All-Conference last year.
Sophomore guards Karisa Moerler and Emma Walker also return after starting as freshmen, while senior post players Morgan and Natalie Beckman are three-year varsity players who, at 6-foot, will provide size.
Senior wing Mackenzie Barnhill also returns.
“Six of our returning players had significant playing time last season,” Tringali said. “That experience is definitely our strength.”
All of which should help the Indians stay in the thick of things in the SAC Lakeshore Division. Not that it will be easy.
“Until someone knocks off Gobles, you have to start with them,” Tringali said. “That said, I feel the league will be as balanced as it’s ever been. We will also see very improved teams in Martin and Fennville.”
Shooting will be a focus for Saugatuck.
“We need to see improvement from our perimeter game,” Tringali said. “We did not shoot well last season. It has been an emphasis for us this summer and in practice thus far.”
During the past two seasons, Fennville junior guard Coryne Howard has made an impression on the coaches throughout the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Despite missing half of the Blackhawks’ games due to a shoulder injury last season, Howard still garnered First Team All-Conference honors.
Second-year Fennville coach Chip Nightingale is happy to have Howard back and healthy for her junior campaign this season.
“Coryne may be one of the hardest working girls I know and definitely one of the best shooters in our conference,” Nightingale said. “She pushes her teammates. Even if they don’t show up, she will be there to better herself.”
Not that Fennville will be a one-person team.
“Teams are not going to be able to just try to stop (Howard) because we have scorers from all sides of the court,” Nightingale said. “That’s a luxury we didn’t have last year.”
Returning seniors Danielle Davis (guard), center Nadia Allen (center) and Holly Laraway (forward) are among those other offensive threats, as are returning juniors Jackie Jaimes (guard), Cristal Castillo (forward), AnNygea Everette (center).
“Defensively we are going to be able to match up with teams better than last year,” Nightingale said. “We are stronger, more physical and driven to stop teams.”
Those attributes should help the Blackhawks improve on last season’s 2-19 mark.
“Our goal is always to have more wins than the year before,” the coach said. “I have girls who have really prepared for this season. They have great attitudes, are very coachable and pushing each other to get better with every practice.”
Staying healthy will be a key for Fennville as the roster doesn’t boast tremendous depth. “Our numbers are low, so injuries are not an option for us this year,” Nightingale said.
He expects the SAC to be competitive from top to bottom this season.
“We play in a tough league this year,” he said. “Some of the top teams — Gobles, Watervliet, Coloma — lost key seniors, but we know they are always rebuilding. Martin will be tough, and we can never forget about Saugatuck. If their young players play well, they will be tough to beat.”