Bartlett girls basketball coach Denise Sarna was in one of those situations last year that coaches dream about.
She had too many starters.
Well, of course she only had five starters, but she had enough talent on her 2010-11 team to honestly say any of about eight of them could have started at any time.
Now, what seems only a few short months later, Sarna and the Hawks have lost two of those key starters to graduation — all-area co-captain Jacki Gulczynski (Wisconsin) and rebounding machine Christina Carlson (San Jose State).
So it’s time to retool a little maybe?
Nope. Not at Bartlett. Not when Sarna can trot out the likes of returning all-area starters Haley Videckis (6-foot), Kristin Conniff (6-0) and point guard Janessa Baker (5-5), as well as sixth man Lisa Palmer (6-0) and fellow senior Katie Gutzwiller (5-10) for starters. There’s more, but that’s a starting point any coach would like to have.
“Last year I kept saying how deep that team was and to have that much talent was a dream come true,” says Sarna, whose squad finished 28-2, won the Upstate Eight Valley title and a regional crown before being upset by Trinity in the sectional semifinals.
“But we also had kids sitting because we had so much talent and now it’s their turn. They’re ready to go. We have eight seniors and I’ve never had that much senior depth in one year. Hopefully now it’s all about experience.”
To Videckis, who has signed with Indiana, it’s this senior class’ time to shine.
“This year we’re coming in with the approach that we have a very good team,” said Videckis, who averaged 10.5 points and 3. 2 rebounds per game last season while also knocking down 41 3-pointers. “We have a lot of experience and we have some confident seniors and an unbelievable bond. We don’t care who scores the points, we just want to win together. I’ve never loved playing with a team like I do this one. I think we have so much talent on this team.”
Conniff likes the depth she sees the Hawks having this season.
“We have people who can contribute and a deep starting lineup,” said Conniff, who averaged 10.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per game last season. “We have a lot of seniors and a lot of depth and it’s important to us because it’s our last year. We’re going for everything and we’re going to work hard. We all believe we can do as good as last year, be conference champs again and do well in our tournaments. We want to play in championship games.”
From the coach on down, the Hawks, ranked No. 7 in Class 4A and No. 3 in the Daily Herald Top 20, know the one key area they will have to concentrate on this season is rebounding. Nearly 17 boards per game graduated with Gulczynski, Carlson, Taylor Buliox and Nicole Beck.
“Rebounding is a hole to fill,” said Sarna, knowing full well that players like Palmer, who will play next year at Wisconsin-Whitewater and 6-foot freshman Kendra Videckis, Haley’s sister, have the ability to close that gap.
“We’re going to have to work even harder on rebounding but we have the ability to run teams down the court,” Videckis said. “We want to score more off fast breaks and transition.”
That’s where the steady guard play of Baker (5.2 ppg, 3.1 apg) will come in, as well as that of 5-6 senior Nicole Gobbo. Helping carry the load will also be 5-7 senior forward Nastalie Grodzki, who is signed with Division I Quinnipiac University to play soccer, and 5-6 senior guard Ashley Johnson.
“I feel we can be a real fast-breaking team and we can move the ball real well,” said Conniff, who is still weighing her college options. “We need to stay fresh on offense.”
What Sarna wants to see is this team jell on its own and not use past success to rely on.
“It’s really important for the new team to have it’s own identity,” said Sarna, now 213-43 in her eighth season as Bartlett’s only head girls basketball coach. “I’m not comparing us to last year and we’re not talking a lot about last year. This group is developing its own identity and this a really fun group of kids. I’m excited for the season.”
And with the talent and depth Sarna has this season, it’s easy to see why she would be.
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