4A Inland Empire League
By: Will Hoenike
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Hannah Broyles, Moscow
Megan Jung, Moscow
Katy Ryan, Lakeland
Lauren Cooper, Lakeland
Maddie Morgan, Sandpoint
Dawson Driggs, Sandpoint
There could be a change at the top of the 4A Inland Empire League in 2018-19.
The Sandpoint Bulldogs, who have represented the league at the State tournament each of the past four seasons, is reinventing themselves after losing IEL MVP Grace Kirschner and Trinity Golder to Eastern Washington University of the Big Sky Conference.
“This is the first time in a while that we haven’t had a clear cut Division 1 player on the roster,” Sandpoint head coach William Love said of Kirschner and Madi Schoening, who started all 31 games at the University of Montana as a sophomore last season. “We are still identifying who our leaders will be and where our stats will come from on a nightly basis.”
Love has seven players returning this season, led by senior post players Lillian Anderson and Natalie Petit, though none were regular starters a season ago. Junior guards Dawson Drivvs and Maddie Morgan will see increased roles this winter. Love is also welcoming two transfers to the program – Aly Lish, a junior, from Rockland and Kaylee Banks, a sophomore, from Clark Fork – who have an opportunity to make an immediate impact on the program.
“I’m excited about our depth. I would argue that this team has more depth throughout the roster than most of our teams the last four years,” Love noted. “We are carrying nine players to start the season and I feel comfortable playing all of them extended minutes. We also have a few players capable of having breakout seasons if they continue to work hard.”
So who is the strongest challenger to take Sandpoint’s throne? Moscow? Lakeland?
Or … perhaps either one?
Moscow, under first-year head coach Kaylee Wilson, returns first-team All-IEL selection Hannah Broyles. Broyles, a guard, should form a formidable backcourt with fellow senior Megan Jung.
“Their roles as captains have increase this year and I am excited to watch them grow and lead throughout the season,” Wilson said.
The Bears won eight games last season and were one win away from the State tournament before being ousted by Sandpoint. Along with the veteran backcourt, Wilson will lean on post player Peyton Claus to play a key role this season.
“We plan to run and play pressure defense the whole game,” Wilson said. “We need to improve our rebounding on both ends of the floor in order to be successful this season. This team this year isn’t as tall (as last season’s team, which lost post player Gracie Meyer to graduation) but we plan to use our speed and aggression to help us win games.”
Love also said his team in Sandpoint lacks ideal height – “the girls will really need to focus on being in position when it comes to defense and rebounding,” he said – which could give an advantage to the Lakeland Hawks, who boasts arguably the conference top returning post player in Katy Ryan, a 6-foot-3 sophomore who saw key varsity minutes down the stretch last season for veteran head coach Steve Seymour.
The Hawks also return a veteran core of guards, including Lauren Cooper, Izzy Kirk and Alaina Pruitt, all seniors. Lakeland had growing pains on offense last season, topping 50 points just twice, so finding rhythm when the team has possession of the ball will be a big key for Coach Seymour.
The IEL appears to be a guard-heavy league in 2018-19. Whichever team can gain an advantage in the paint to go along with its guard play may have an early leg up in the chase for the league’s lone spot at the 4A State Tournament. The last team other than Sandpoint to earn that berth was Moscow, who earned the IEL berth each season from 2010 to 2013. Lakeland’s last appearance in the 4A State tournament was 2009, when the Hawks reached the semifinals before being knocked out by eventual state champion Bonneville.