Written by: Sven Alskog
1AD2 North Side Conference
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
3. Lighthouse Christian
8. Camas County
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Matigan Bingham, Junior, Dietrich
Chloe Gomez, Senior, Lighthouse Christian
Brianna Astle, Junior, Dietrich
Quincie Christiansen, Senior, Dietrich
Shantell Chavez, Junior, Carey
Athana Versis, Junior, Carey
Kylie Wood, Freshman, Carey
Shelby Buckner, Junior, Richfield
Things should be fun in the North Side Conference this season, with potential for a three-horse race for the title between Dietrich, Carey and Lighthouse Christian ready to take place.
After losing nine consecutive games to begin last year, Carey returns all three of its leading scorers for their junior seasons, including Athana Versis, Shantell Chavez and Kodi Green.
Senior Honorable Mention All-Conference selection Rylee Smith will bring the necessary leadership needed for the Panthers, as the lone senior on head coach Merrilee Sears’ roster.
While the run of a year ago was a fun one for a team that finished its season on a high note by winning seven of its last nine games, Carey will hope to get kick-started a little earlier in the year this time around.
They will need that to happen in a conference where Dietrich returns junior First Team All-Conference honoree Matigan Bingham down-low.
Bingham is joined by Brianna Astle and Quincie Christansen to form a formidable trio for opponents to worry about on a nightly basis.
Lighthouse Christian may very well by the sleeper team in the conference, as Tia Standlee has senior Chloe Gomez back to lead the charge for a fairly experienced group that won the regular season conference crown a year ago.
“All their volleyball players came out for basketball and haven’t in the past. They are athletes,” said Murtaugh head coach Todd Jensen.
Jensen, in his first season at Murtaugh, has had success just about everywhere he has gone. The Red Devils hope that can occur on the floor this winter as well.
Seniors Abby Suitter and Tiarre Setoki are the leaders of the team.
“I’m excited to see where we can go this year. We push the ball and play aggressive on defense. We need to improve our court awareness,” said Jensen.
The biggest thing for Murtaugh is the mindset.
“Develop a winning tradition and get a belief. Learn to win. We have gone 9-84 over the past seven years,” added Jensen.
Other coaches think the Red Devils could see a spike in wins this season.
“They have played together for a few years and have a great chemistry,” said Castleford head coach Jason Tverdy.
With six juniors on the roster, Richfield is another team that could benefit from continuing to gain experience as the year goes on.
“With a roster full of returning players, I hope to build on the foundation we set last year. I’m excited to see how we progress throughout the season,” said Richfield head coach Buck Hendren.
Honorable Mention All-Conference forward Shelby Buckner leads the junior class, while a couple of Kent’s, a familiar name around Richfield, could be huge impact performers as well. Serena Kent is a freshman guard, while Erica Kent is a senior.
“Defensively we want to keep pressure on the ball and force other teams into making mistakes. Offensively we want to execute correctly and have a lot of people scoring points,” said Hendren.
Castleford picked up a consolation trophy at state a year ago, but with a new coach and the loss of some key talent, the Wolves will have a large task at hand to get back to that level this season.
Without North Star Conference MVP Haddee Reynolds, Castleford needs to find someone to handle the ball, as she was about as good as it gets in that regard in the 1A ranks.
There is optimism about some of the returning talent, including senior guard Savanah Nunes and senior forward Alondra Rivera. Nunes was an Honorable Mention All-Conference selection last year.
“Our team does well at ball movement,” said Tverdy. “Areas of improvement include rebounding and stronger passes.”
Hansen went 7-16 a year ago, and Honorable Mention All-Conference performer Kendy Kenney is now a junior.
Camas County is returning to varsity action after a year hiatus last season.