2A Western Idaho Conference Conference
Written by: Sven Alskog
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
2. Cole Valley Christian
3. New Plymouth
4. Nampa Christian
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Emma Clark, Senior, Melba
Kate Clark, Sophomore, Melba
Maddie Cooke, Junior, Cole Valley Christian
Savannah Khoury, Junior, Cole Valley Christian
Denisse Pelayo, Junior, New Plymouth
Jessie Wood, Junior, Nampa Christian
Lauren Hansen, Senior, McCall-Donnelly
Two-time Idaho Player of the Year Kori Pentzer is no longer at Melba, however the Mustangs still enter the new season as favorites in the preseason coaches poll.
Much of the reason for the optimism circles around the Clark sisters, Emma and Kate.
It’s pretty simple as to why that is.
“They are the best athletes in our conference,” said McCall-Donnelly head coach Cody Hansen.
Combined with returning post Mary Ellen Cossel and guard Kortney Trappett, the Mustangs should remain tough.
“We will be different. Our team last year was ten deep with a lot of upperclassmen who had played a lot of basketball. With six of those players moving on, we will be adding five players who have very little to zero varsity experience. How these players adjust to the varsity game will determine a lot in how our season goes this year. So far they have been working hard and are very excited for the opportunity in front of them,” said Melba head coach David Lenz.
It all starts on the guard line with Emma Clark, who has both the ability to get her teammates involved and fill up the basket in her own right.
“This year we will be led by senior point guard Emma Clark, who has been a First Team all-conference selection the past three seasons. Her ability to score, handle the ball and get her teammates involved will go a long way in determining the success of our season. Emma will be joined in the starting lineup by Mary Ellen Cossel, Kate Clark and Kortney Trappett, all of which played varsity last season and are expected to play a huge role on this year’s team,” added Lenz.
Melba can expect to be tested within conference by a strong Cole Valley Christian team.
The Chargers return Honorable Mention All-Conference post Maddie Cooke and fellow Honorable Mention selection Savannah Khoury to lead the way on the floor.
Something to watch early in the season will be how the team adapts to not having Holly Golenor and Ace Haas, as each had big production outputs throughout their high school careers.
“We lost our two most productive players to graduation, but I believe that our added youth combined with our returning experience could make for a special team,” said Cole Valley Christian head coach Stu Sells.
One of the main focus areas in the offseason for the Chargers was valuing each possession and limiting turnovers.
Another team that could make a run at a state appearance this season is New Plymouth.
The Pilgrims found out prior to the first game of the season that they would be without 6-foot-2-inch post Alyssa Christensen for the entirety of the year, but still have a good group in place that should win plenty of games.
Denisse Pelayo has about as much experience as any of the starters and will be relied upon to handle the bulk of the ball-handling duties after coming away with Honorable Mention All-Conference recognition for her work last season.
“Hopefully we will play an aggressive man defense with tons of pressure on the ball without fouling. We need to improve on taking care of the ball, with less turnovers and [more] rebounding. We will be a pressing team that will count on forcing turnovers,” said New Plymouth head coach Denise Oliver.
She acknowledges that it will be a much different look this year however.
“We lost five seniors, so we will be a completely different team. We will be young, but aggressive and competitive.”
Jaime Wood takes over as the head coach at Nampa Christian this season, with her team a potential sleeper in the conference.
“They return one of the best players in the conference in Jessie Wood [plus] all of their varsity starters and players returning from the past two seasons. Depth and experience,” said Sells.
For a team that has been young recently, they hope to see it all come together in the new campaign.
“They are getting their best player back and didn’t lose a player from last year,” added Hansen, who returns plenty of talent on his team as well.
McCall-Donnelly played young last season, but brings back Second Team All-Conference guard Lauren Hansen and Honorable Mention All-Conference point guard Jessica Jones, who was just a freshman last season.
The experience gained a year ago should help the Vandals out in a big way.
“We took our lumps last year as a varsity team that had a lot of youth on it. I am most excited with the increased confidence of our younger players. It is evident in their play on the court. They are moving better and with a sense of purpose. As a whole, we have a lot coming back that makes us excited,” said Hansen.
Nayeli Lopez, Rachel Wright and Jaeda Moyer were all listed as players moving up from JV that could make impacts on the varsity roster this time around.
Overall, the improvement has been noticeable in practice.
“We have improved greatly in our ball movement on offense and knowing when and where to attack any defense. Our defense should be a major strength, as we understand our roles and what is needed from that,” explained Hansen.
Marsing was selected sixth out of the six teams in the conference and will be under the guidance of new head coach Gloria Nagel.
After winning seven of their first nine games in 2017/2018, the Huskies finished the season losing ten of their last 14, including five in a row at the end of the season.
They will be looking to get off to a hot start to get things headed back in the right direction in the new year.