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Season Preview: Woodbury girls basketball returns experience to the court

Emma Stoehr is one of six seniors and three starters returning from last year. (Photo by John Molene)

The Woodbury girls’ basketball team featured a young roster last season with just two seniors on the varsity.

As a result, this year’s team will have more experience. Back for the Royals are three returning starters and most of the top reserves.

Woodbury was 11-16 overall last season and 5-11 in the Suburban East Conference, finishing fifth. With a group of veteran players returning, the Royals are looking to move up in the standings this season.

The team will include the top five players from last year.

“I’m looking forward to this season,” Woodbury coach Megan Kirchenwitz said. “We’re returning most of our starting lineup, and they’re just a group of girls that have really great attitudes and work ethics. They’re very coachable. I think it’s going to be a great season ahead for us.”

Leading the returners are the top two returning scorers in junior guard Rachel Hakes — who led Woodbury with 13.8 points per game last season — and senior guard Cecile Kieger (13.4 ppg). Also back in the fold are senior guard Mary Reed (7.3 ppg) and a healthy Ellie Kreibich, a senior forward.

The Royals have a strong nucleus of seniors in Kieger, Kreibich, Liz Jordahl and Cam Veenbaas.

Depth may be a concern, however, as most of the players off the bench will be sophomores and freshmen.

Strengths for the Royals will be defense and hustle.

“They play so hard when they’re on the court,” Kirchenwitz said. “I think some of the things we’ll continue to be growing from are just the Xs and Os. Our basketball IQ can always get better.”

White Bear Lake, Cretin-Derham Hall and East Ridge are Kirchenwitz’s picks for the top teams in the conference.

“We have some really top teams this year in our conference,” Kirchenwitz said. “Teams coming back with a lot of experience. White Bear is still going to be strong even though they lost a lot. Cretin is going to be really tough this year. East Ridge is going to be really tough. They have a lot of returning kids that are top players in our state.”

Kirchenwitz said she sees the Royals in the top half of the conference.

“I always do,” she said.

Beating one of their close conference rivals is always a goal for the Royals. Woodbury was 0-2 against each of East Ridge and Park last season.

It’s going to be fun for the Royals, though.

“For the crew of kids that I have, they just really are a joy to work with,” Kirchenwitz said. “They just have great attitudes. They have great work ethic. They’re easy to be around every day. They make my job easy.”