Last season it took the Sheboygan Christian girls basketball team a couple of months and some lessons along the way to pick up its sixth victory of the season en route to an 8-15 finish.
This year, with those bumps and bruises out of the way, the Eagles have raced out to a 6-1 start and are on pace to have the highest win total of any Christian girls basketball team since its 15-11 finish in 2007-2008.
So what difference can a year make?
“Last year we were very young, but we learned every game,” second-year Christian coach Paul Modahl said. “We put in a new system (last season) and now we are just tweaking it.”
At 4-0 in the Central Lakeshore Conference, Christian’s early-season success has come despite having fewer players on the team than the squads it’s gone up against.
But, with only seven players suiting up, the Eagles have bought into Modahl’s system and are flourishing in the team-first environment that has been difficult so far for other teams to defend.
“On any given night anyone can have a big game and anyone of them can play multiple positions,” Modahl said. “These girls, the group of girls I have, are hard working and very coachable. They get along so well and we have really good team chemistry.
“It doesn’t matter who scores the most points or grabs the most rebounds, they are happy for each other and I truly think that makes a huge difference in how we’re doing.”
Currently, Hannah Modahl — Paul Modahl’s daughter — and Carissa Wisse are leading the way by averaging a little more than 10 points per game.
Then comes Jessica Lemmenes and Cori Flipse, who are averaging a little more than six points per game, and then Jackie Wisse at five points per game.
All five are back from last year, as is Breanna Van Ess, who is averaging two points per game. Newcomer Allison Scheidt is averaging one point per game as she learns the Eagles’ system and tries to find her niche.
“We’re still working on our rotation but we’re coming along pretty good,” Paul Modahl said.
A test of that progress will present itself soon as a tough stretch of games is right around the corner for the Eagles.
Tonight they’ll be at Howards Grove (1-3, 1-1 CLC) to take on a Tigers squad that beat them by nearly 20 points in two meetings last season.
Then, on Jan. 3, Christian will be at Oostburg (4-1, 3-0) in a matchup between the current top two CLC teams. The Flying Dutchmen too swept last season’s pair of meetings.
But, as the early portion of this season has indicated, last year means nothing to this year’s group of Eagles.
“The key for us will be handling their pressure,” Modahl said of Christian’s upcoming pair of opponents. “(Howards Grove and Oostburg) pressed us a lot last year, and I think that’s the difference between this year and last year, is we are handling the pressure teams are throwing our way.
“Howards Grove and Oostburg are excellent teams and we have to play our best in order to be in those games. Our defense has been good so far this season and I think (Oostburg and Howards Grove) both have great players we’ll need to be able to stop.”