Algoma girls basketball coach Mark Zastrow has more Packerland Conference titles than he does conference losses entering his eighth season.
With a majority of their WIAA Division 4 state championship lineup returning, the Wolves are a favorite to win an eighth straight Packerland title under Zastrow’s watch.
“They are a model of consistency,” said De Pere coach Dave Johnson, who faces Algoma in a nonconference game on Dec. 21.
“You just kind of look at the name and don’t even worry about the roster because you know you’re going to have one of the better teams in the state every single year with Mark there.”
Zastrow has a 160-16 career record, including a 94-6 mark in Packerland play.
The Wolves advanced to state for the second time in three years last season and ended a 27-year drought since their last state title.
The scary thing is Algoma probably is more experienced than it was last year at this time when it had to replace six graduated players from a rotation that easily can go 10 deep. This season the Wolves have to replace just two starters from a squad that went 26-2.
“The big thing for me is to make sure our kids believe they can win every time they walk onto the floor,” Zastrow said.
The Packerland was unquestionably the toughest small-school conference in the state last season with Algoma (D4) and Kewaunee (D3) winning state titles.
Meanwhile, Oconto went 21-5 with all five of its losses coming against those two teams, which included a sectional final loss against the Wolves.
After winning shares of three straight Packerland titles and making three consecutive state appearances, Kewaunee has to replace its entire starting lineup.
“Kewaunee is still going to be good, but their kids are going to need some time to develop,” Oconto coach Russ Young said. “Algoma is just loaded, though. Zug has a lot of kids coming back that are tough. We’re trying to replicate what he has with their youth, but we’re not there yet.
“But we’ve got as good a group from senior to freshmen down that we’ve ever had in my 23 years.”
The Blue Devils have lost 15 straight games to Algoma and haven’t won a conference title since the 1998-99 season.
But with eight letter winners returning, Young said his team has an all-in mentality this season.
Oconto certainly has a blue-chipper in senior guard Laken James.
James, a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit, went over 1,000 career points last season and is Oconto’s all-time leading scorer.
“I think any time you bring a Division I player back you have to pay attention to that,” said Zastrow, whose team returns a first-team all-conference forward in Kennedy Blahnik.
Blahnik was the Wolves’ leading scorer in the their state championship victory over Colfax with 17 points.
Two years prior to that, Blahnik saw significant minutes at the 2011 state tournament as a freshman.
In the 2013 state tournament, freshman Anna Dier dropped in a game-high 18 points in semifinal victory against Cuba City, while fellow freshman Baleigh Delorit totaled 15 points in the two games at the Resch Center.
The fact that Zastrow can continuously get production from young players like that is the key to his program’s success.
It’s the reason Zastrow tries to work closely with the coaches at the youth level.
“I get to as many of those practices as I can,” Zastrow said. “I think it’s important for the kids to get comfortable with me and for the coaches to be aware of what we’re trying to do at the high school level.”
Young is hoping his Oconto team will be on the same level when it faces Algoma this season.
“We’ve got to make our run this year,” Young said. “I’m trying to get everyone to buy in that this is it. But I don’t think they have that sense of urgency as a collective group yet.”
Coach: Mark Zastrow, eighth year.
2012-13 record: 26-2, 13-1.
Key players: Kennedy Blahnik (sr., F, 5-9), Anna Dier (so., F, 5-11), Meg Ryan (sr., G, 5-7), Baleigh Delorit (so., G, 5-10), Jade LeDocq (sr., F, 5-9), Leah Blazkovec (sr., F, 5-11), Lindsey Pierre (jr., G, 5-7), Karissa Koss (jr., G, 5-9), Whitney Ebert (jr., G, 5-4), Jordan Demmin (jr., G, 5-6), Rachel Feuerstein (jr., G, 5-3).
Notable: The Wolves have to replace guard Taylor Schmidt, a two-time Packerland player of the year. Blahnik averaged 9.7 ppg and 4.9 rpg, while Ryan (5.0 ppg) and Dier (8.0 ppg) received honorable mention all-conference accolades.
Coach: Josh Kropuenske, fourth year.
2012-13 record: 11-14, 2-12.
Key players: Makenna Ash (jr., F, 6-2), Helen Hecht (jr., G, 5-9), Lauren Kita (so., G, 5-6), Aleah Bauldry (so., F, 5-10), Jasmine Haslep (sr., G, 5-2), Emma Kunstman (sr., F, 5-10).
Notable: Ash averaged 10.6 ppg and was second in the Packerland with 9.4 rpg to earn second-team all-conference honors. Ash, Hecht and Kita have been starters since their freshmen seasons.
Coach: Lynn Geier, 11th year (nonconsecutive).
2012-13 record: 27-1, 13-1.
Key players: Amanda Bultman (sr., F, 5-9), Carli VanGoethem (sr., G, 5-7), Aubree Dax (sr., F/C, 5-10), Serena Schneider (sr., F/G, 5-10), Dayna Schneider (sr., G, 5-5), Kim Wiley (jr., F, 5-7), Ashley Loecher (jr., F, 5-7), Abby VanGoethem (so., F, 5-8), Brooke Geier (fr., G, 5-6), Angie Kudick (fr., G, 5-6), Ellie Olsen (fr., F, 5-8).
Notable: The Storm graduates six players that received at least honorable mention all-conference honors last season, including first-team performers Alex Richard and Kelsey Stangel. Bultman is the team’s top returning scorer (4.3 pg) and rebounder (3.9 pg).
Coach: Nicki Natzke, first year.
2012-13 record: 13-12, 4-10.
Key players: Sadie Nier (sr., F/C, 5-10), Keifer Zimmerman (jr., G, 5-9), Karissa Voskamp (so., F/C, 5-10), Alivia Wilke (so., F/G, 5-9), Morgan Meerstein (fr., G, 5-6), Maddie Sabel (jr., G/F, 5-9), Ivy Van Beaver (sr., F/C, 5-10).
Notable: Natzke replaces Scott Nier as coach. Natzke previously led Wrightstown to a D3 state tournament appearance in 2004. Nier received honorable mention all-conference honors after averaging 11.6 rpg to lead the Packerland.
Coach: Russ Young, 23rd year.
2012-13 record: 21-5, 10-4.
Key players: Laken James (sr., G, 5-9), Jaelyn Jicha (sr., G, 5-4), Carli Meyer (sr., F, 5-5), Emily Shallow (jr., G, 5-4), Mariah Pointer (sr., F, 6-0), Kelly Stewart (so., G, 5-7), Amber Westphal (sr., G, 5-6), Carlee Behnke (so., F, 5-11), Mykala Moes (jr., F, 5-5), Tori Hipke (jr., G, 5-1).
Notable: The Blue Devils have eight letter winners back after advancing to the sectional finals for the first time since 1980 last season. James averaged 15.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 4.6 apg last season when she went over 1,000 career points. Jicha (10.9 ppg) was a second team all-conference choice.
Coach: Arnie Neubauer, first year.
2012-13 record: 3-19, 0-14.
Key players: Jessica Wagner (jr., G, 5-8), Megan LaPlant (sr., G, 5-1), Adaline Nelson (so., F, 5-8), Demi Ploor (fr., G, 5-5), Anna Giblin (fr., G, 5-6), Ashley Kinnard (jr., G, 5-5).
Notable: Neubauer takes over for David Wheat. Nine of the 15 players on the Pioneers’ roster are freshmen. Wagner started as a freshman before missing most of last season with a shoulder injury.
Coach: Brandon Wautier, third year.
2012-13 record: 13-11, 7-7.
Key players: Bailey Bauduin (sr., G, 5-5), Courtney VanHout (sr., C/F, 5-10), Megan Hawkey (sr., G, 5-7), Abby Baranczyk (jr., G, 5-5), Allison Babler (jr., C, 6-0), Kelsey Pavlik (jr., G, 5-8), Bailey Hanson (so., G, 5-7).
Notable: The Eagles have to replace Cheyanne McFarlin, who scored more than 1,000 points as a four-year starter and led the Packerland in scoring last season. Southern Door returns seven varsity letter winners, including Bauduin, VanHout and Hawkey as starters.
Coach: Jim Jacobson, first year.
2012-13 record: 11-11, 7-7.
Key players: Caroline Miller (sr., F, 5-9), Caroline Haen (sr., G, 5-6), Jackie Herlache (sr., G, 5-5), Caralyn Mickey (sr., C/F, 5-11), Katrina Boucher (sr., G, 5-4), Gilly Davison (sr., F, 5-10), Jasmine Noel (sr., C, 5-7), Hailey Benesh (so., G, 5-7), Hannah Abrahamson (so., G, 5-7).
Notable: The Clippers have to replace three starters that received all-conference recognition. Mickey, Davison and Boucher all had some starting experience coming into the season.