BY JOHN BOHNENKAMP
FORT MADISON – Holy Trinity’s girls basketball team was young last season, and the Crusaders won 13 games.
It’s another year of youth, but coach Tony Johnson knows what to expect.
“There will be some growing pains throughout the year, but we’ll be fine,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be the same — building for the future, but trying to win as many games as possible now.”
Holy Trinity has two starters back — senior Bailey Hellweg and junior Kassi Randolph — from last season’s 13-10 team (9-7 SEI Superconference South Division) that reached the Class 1A regional quarterfinals.
“I think it’s going to be the same (type of season),” Johnson said. “The younger kids are hungry. They all played volleyball, so they know how to handle the pressure of playing varsity sports. Like I said, there will be growing pains, but we’ll see what happens.”
It will be a season of expected unpredictability because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Johnson realizes that.
“Honestly, I’m happy we’ve gotten in a couple of weeks (of practice),” he said. “Everything is day-to-day. We just cherish each day. I tell the girls, let’s get as much done as we can every day. I expected week-to-week when we started, now it may be a day-to-day thing.
“We wear masks at practice. They hate it, but as I said, if you want to play basketball, this is what you have to do.”
Hellweg and Maria Rauenbuehler will be the only seniors in the starting lineup when the Crusaders open the season on Tuesday against New London. Junior Raquel Schneider, sophomore Brooke Mueller and freshman Mary Kate Bendlage round out the lineup.
“So we’ll be young,” Johnson said. “But the younger ones who will play a lot got some experience last year.”
Randolph is the team’s leading returning scorer (5 ppg) and rebounder (4.3 rpg) from last season.
“I know what I’m going to get from her every night from her,” Johnson said. “She’s so consistent.”
Hellweg was second on the team with 23 3-pointers.
“She started almost every game,” Johnson said. “She’s a great shooter last year. When she’s open, she’s going to make those shots.”
Rauenbuehler played in 22 games last season and was one of the team’s better defenders, finishing with 26 steals.
“She’s coming in with a lot of confidence,” Johnson said. “You can really see it in how she’s played in practice.”
Mueller and Schneider also played 22 games last season, combining for eight starts. Johnson is confident having Bendlage in the lineup for her first varsity start.
“The biggest thing with her is she’s played AAU basketball,” Johnson said of the 5-foot-9 forward.
“She’s athletic as can be. I know there will be growing pains with her. But she’s athletic enough, and smart enough, that I think she will be able to handle it.”
Reagan Holvoet, another 5-9 freshman, will see key minutes in the frontcourt as well.
“We’ll be young down low, but in the long run it will benefit everybody,” Johnson said.
Ali Robu and Jordan Mueller are the other seniors on the roster. Abby Holtkamp joins Randolph and Schneider as juniors. Kayla Box and Mary Hellige are sophomores. Natalie Randolph is a freshman.
“We’re going to take our young-people lumps this year,” Johnson said. “But we have a great future ahead. This is a good group.”