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2013-14 Winter Preview: Woodbury girls basketball team looks for younger players to carry 2012-13 momentum

Woodbury senior Kalley Hakes is one of the Royals’ key returning players this winter. (Bulletin file photo)

When Nathan McGuire first took charge of the Royals’ girls basketball program, he was greeted by a slate of experienced seniors who communicated their mission to him clearly: They wanted to go to state.

The Royals nearly achieved the goal, but fell to St. Paul Central in the Section 4AAAA championship game. Still, the season represented a turnaround for a program that had struggled to muster consistent wins until McGuire – the third coach in three years – came around.

Last year’s team was 19-10 overall and 12-6 in the Suburban East Conference, including key wins over Park and White Bear Lake. That marked a significant swing from the 9-17 record compiled in the 2011-12 season.

Now in his second year at the helm of the program, McGuire faces a new task, one that means forging ahead without the likes of standout players Kristina White and Courtney Schiffler, who were among five players lost to graduation.

“Woodbury’s always been a program that’s had success,” McGuire said. “We still have high expectations. It might just take us a little while to get going.”

Aided by assistant coaches Mark Obarski, Kerry Daly, Jarvis Keys and Chelsea Smith, McGuire turns to a younger crop of players for the 2013-14 season.

Key returning players include senior guard Kalley Hakes, junior guard Kayla Bilski, freshman forward CiCi Kieger and junior forward Ellie Blanchfield. Just six of 18 players will return from last season’s varsity-junior varsity roster.

McGuire said his experienced players will begin forming a core that can be bolstered and tweaked as the season goes on.

“We need to find the right freshmen or sophomores to get in the mix,” he said.

In order to remain competitive with Suburban East Conference leaders like Park, Forest Lake and White Bear Lake, McGuire said leadership will be key. He said captains Hakes and Bilski will be called on to provide a calming effect for less experienced players and demonstrate “leadership on the floor.”

“With the inexperience, we need players to step up and take that leadership to the next level,” McGuire said.

That leadership will be vital come section playoff time, where McGuire expects St. Paul Central, White Bear Lake and Tartan to be among the top contenders.

McGuire said that once this year’s squad begins to click, he expects the Royals to compete in the top half of the conference.

“The future looks bright,” he said.

—Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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