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Youthful Lady Eagle cagers eager to learn the game

  The Frankenmuth varsity girls’ basketball team graduated five players last year and Coach Tom Keller has a youthful but eager group of underclassmen preparing for the 2017-18 season.

  The Lady Eagles were 15-6 overall last year and won the Tri-Valley Conference East Division again, this time with a 13-1 record. However, the TVC East winning streak came to an end when they lost to Birch Run. Keller’s teams had won 105 straight league games, dating back to 2009. Keller is 197-56 over 11 seasons and 138-6 in the East.

  “We lost a lot of scoring and almost all of our rebounding to graduation. We have a few holes to fill,” Keller said.

  The Class of 2017 included Lindsey Mertz, Hannah Karwat, Kayla Kueffner, Sara Aldrich and Emily Janson.

  Keller is also excited about the renovated FHS gym.

  “It’s awesome.  It’s like Christmas every day when I walk into it. The gym is bright and sharp and just a great facility,” the coach stated.

  With the student section now end zone bleachers on the east end of the gym, Keller has switched benches, now setting up on the west end. They shoot into the bleachers in the first half and toward the west end in the second half.

  With Otisville-LakeVille leaving the East last year, the Lady Eagles now have six nonconference contests and two TVC crossovers. They have back-to-back road games at Nouvel Catholic Central and Valley Lutheran January 11 and 16, respectively. Toward the end of the season, FHS will welcome large Class B Haslett on February 13.

  Keller said one of the team’s strengths is team speed.

  “We have a couple of players who can really cover some ground. We’ll play a bit more up-tempo. We also have a hard-working team. I rarely have to get after them for not giving great effort,” Keller added.

  Right now, being a young team is the perceived weakness. The team consists of one senior, six juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen.

  “Youth is a weakness now but at some point, they’ll pick it up. They are all like little sponges, soaking up what we are telling them. The good thing is that they are all learning the same things at the same time,” Keller commented. “We’ve tried to keep things simple to start the season and then build on things as we go.”

  The team is also short in stature and the Lady Eagles will have to rebound by committee, working their tails off to defend the inside, Keller said.

  Following is commentary on each player, in uniform numerical order.

  Courtney Aldrich is the lone senior of the 2017-18 season.

  “She is doing a good job embracing the role of the only senior. She is one of our tri-captains. She is a great encourager and a positive kid. Her disposition as a person wears off on the other kids and they get a positive vibe,” Keller said. “She’s a heady, intelligent player who makes good decisions and will give us good minutes this year.”

  Junior Kaylee Kujat is still recovering from a knee injury.

  “She is rehabbing really well. We are keeping all our options open that she can come back at some point in the season. We are hopeful before March but we just do not know,” Keller said.

  Sophomore Brooklin Karwat is one of two returning starters for ‘Muth.

  𠇋rooklin is one kid who must step up and play a bigger role for us, especially a larger scoring role. She will have to be in double figures for us to be successful,” Keller said.  “She is our most athletic player, is very springy and attacks the basket well.”

  Laney Soulliere is one of the two freshmen brought up to the varsity level.

  “Laney is a lightning-quick kid with high energy. Her big challenge is to harness her quickness and energy and play under control . . . to play superfast on defense but slow down on offense,” the coach noted. “She has tremendous upside and potential when she begins to grasp the concepts. She will be fun to watch.”

  Junior Claire Breinager is a second-year player on the varsity.

  𠇌laire is a physical player who will have more of a role on the team this season. Her role will to be physical, defend and rebound, and clean up around the basket. If she does that, she will be helping our team a lot. She had limited minutes as a sophomore but has the potential to gain starting minutes this year,” Keller pointed out.

  Kaylee Scharrer is the other ninth-grade player to suit up for the varsity.

  “Kaylee has good size for a freshman and is a good athlete. She has a nice touch, runs the floor well and has raw athleticism. She will be going up against more mature, third and fourth-year players so she will need to learn to be physical at the varsity level . . . she has a bright future,” Keller said.

  Sophomore Tara Keller has been around the game a long time, thanks to her dad, the coach.

  “Tara is one of our top JV players who must transition to the quicker pace of the varsity, which is her challenge. Her strength is her shooting but she struggles with foot speed. She is an intelligent player and has been around our team for many years. Tara has the advantage coming home and we can talk about the games or practice,” Keller said.

  Junior Abby Reinert is a first-year cager for Keller this year.

  �y will be getting some minutes working inside. She is a lanky kid who needs to get used to the physical part of the game. She needs to get used to the wear and tear of the game. Abby has good instincts on the floor and anticipates where the ball is going,” the coach said.

  Sophomore Sydney Merrihew is making the leap to the varsity level.

  “Sydney is a high-energy kid who I hope can be a defensive stopper. Her aggressive play and quickness lends herself to being that type of a player. She plays at full speed on defense but must play under control on offense. Sydney likes basketball more than I realized . . . she’s there every day and is quite a gym rat,” Keller noted.

  Sophomore Kelynn Kujat returns to the varsity following a productive season last year.

  “Kelynn is our veteran player as a sophomore as she has as much experience as any of our other players. We will rely on her to do a lot of things for us. She has a lot of grit and determination and I’m impressed with her ability to compete . . . she hates to lose,” Keller stated. “She played a ton of AAU ball, she loves the game and confidence is a strength of hers. As a shooter, she has short memory (of her misses) and is always ready to pull the trigger on her next open look.”

  Junior Julia King is a third-year varsity player but injuries have sidelined her most of her freshman and sophomore years.

  “Julia has had two very choppy seasons shortened by injury. But she was able to use her eyes and ears to see and hear what we do every day in practice and games. She is showing glimpses of what we expect, she uses her right and left hand to get the ball to the basket and she is a good slasher. Julia is working on boxing out on the boards,” Keller said.

  Junior Madeline Walter is also sidelined with a knee injury sustained in the Homecoming powder puff football game.

  “We don’t have a time table on her return. She will give us some length and use last year as learning experience to prepare to play at the varsity level. She understands the game well, attacks the hoop and gets out well in transition,” Keller said.

   Junior Emily Coulter is also eager to contribute to the team.

  𠇎mily is a bit of a tweener. She uses her body well, is really strong and size wise she is really a guard. Emily passes the ball well, is a spirited kid and brings the energy and juice to the team. She will help us this season,” Keller said.

  Keller is joined on the bench .by long-time assistant coach Missy McGovern and Theresa Schafsnitz, who coached the freshmen team the past two seasons. Walt Kujat returns as the JV coach.

  Keller sees Millington and Essexville-Garber as two top contenders for the TVC East, along with Birch Run and the Miller twins, Sarah and Emmaly.


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