WAUSAU — The D.C. Everest girls basketball team has dominated the Wisconsin Valley Conference the past two years, posing a combined 23-1 mark against the other six conference opponents.
The Evergreens are a different team this year, having graduated a group that accounted for about 78.9 percent of the team’s scoring in conference play last year.
Everest won the conference title by four games over Marshfield and Wausau West last year. The Evergreens should be in the hunt for a third straight WVC title in what should be a competitive conference race this winter. The WVC schedule begins Dec. 4.
“I think the conference race is wide open,” said Everest coach Matt Bullis, who has posted an 84-39 career record in six seasons with the Evergreens. “If our young kids adjust to the speed and physicality of the game, we should be in the hunt.”
Last year: 1. D.C. Everest 12-0 (27-1 overall); 2T. Wausau West 8-4 (10-13); 2T. Marshfield 8-4 (18-7); 4. SPASH 7-5 (12-12); 5. Wisconsin Rapids 5-7 (8-15); 6. Merrill 2-10 (6-18); 7. Wausau East 0-12 (1-22)
Best postseason run: D.C. Everest made its first WIAA state tournament appearance since 1994, falling to Divine Savior Holy Angels in the Division 1 championship game.
The favorites: D.C. Everest, Marshfield
Also in the mix: SPASH
Five players to watch:
1. Taylor Petit, so., D.C. Everest: The guard was generally the first player off the bench for the Evergreens last year and averaged 9.7 points per game in the WVC. Petit, a second-team all-conference pick last season, has received an offer from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
3. Maggie Negaard, so., SPASH: The 5-foot-9 standout finished second on the team in scoring and rebounding for the Panthers in conference play last season. Negaard also was a second-team all-conference selection.
2. MaKayla Scheuer, sr., Marshfield: The 5-6 guard averaged 12.4 and 3.2 rebounds per game for the Tigers last winter. Scheuer also hit 40 percent of her 3-point attempts and was a second-team all-conference selection.
4. Caitlin Deaton, jr., Wausau West: A transfer from Newman Catholic, Deaton led the Cardinals in scoring last season as she averaged 11.9 points and 8.7 rebounds a game. Was a second-team all-Marawood Conference South Divison selection last winter.
5 .Ema Fehrenbach, jr., Marshfield: The 5-11 forward averaged 11 points and six rebounds per game for the Tigers last season.
D.C. Everest graduated nine seniors from last year’s squad, including WVC player of the year Taylor Hodell. Petit, and seniors Emily Bauman and Samantha Anderson were the only underclassmen who had notable varsity time in conference play last year. Junior Ashley Hodell, a 6-foot-1 post, should be a notable contributor for the Evergreens this year.
Marshfield returns one of the more experienced teams in the conference with five seniors and three starters back from last year. The Tigers will need to replace the leadership of the graduated Caitlin Michaelis and Ellie Kummer, however. Both players averaged 13 points per game for Marshfield last year.
Negaard, Taylor Beadles and Rachel Sullivan are the returning starters for SPASH. Senior Hannah Worzella came off the bench last year, and her role should expand this season for a Panthers team that will be led by their guard play but is undersized overall in the front court.
Jasmin Samz, Wausau West’s all-time leading scorer, graduated, but the Warriors return three starters from last year: Sarah Soneyenbos, Lauren Conley and Alexa Sheehan. Freshman Maddie Schires should be one of the top newcomers in the WVC this season. Schires had a team-high 18 points in West’s opener Thursday against Pulaski.
Chris Bondioli takes over as coach for a Wisconsin Rapids team that returns three starters: Chani Pulchinski, Kendra Lysne and Morgan Saeger. One challenge for Rapids is replacing the production of the graduated Victoria Hansen, who led the team in scoring last season.
Maddix Bonnell was the second-leading scorer for Merrill last year, averaging 8.8 points in conference play. The Bluejays did graduate four of its top five scorers, however.
Wausau East returns seven varsity players, all of which are sophomores or juniors. The group includes sophomore Jordan Murphy, who average seven points a game last year and is the top returning scorer. Defense will be a focal point this year as the Lumberjacks ranked last in the conference in points allowed last season.