Since the schools merged together, there has yet to be a winning season for the Collins-Maxwell-Baxter girls basketball team.
However, with an even mix of experience and youth, this year’s Raider squad is shooting for that distinction with numerous players from the team that finished just four games below .500 last year.
“The girls have that goal of being .500 this year,” CMB coach Eric Padget said. “I know it might sound like a ridiculous goal, but it’s attainable and we believe we can do that.”
Although the Raiders return plenty of players, they also will have a few holes to fill. Graduated senior Emmeline Huffaker was a four-year varsity player and fellow graduated senior Jenny Hurley was a consistent starter. All in all, five seniors usually touched the floor for CMB last year.
Luckily for this year’s squad, it was a sophomore that did the bulk of the heavy lifting. Now-junior Abbie Haupert returns as the team’s leading scorer for the past two seasons. She nearly missed averaging a double-double with 13.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game last year. It doesn’t appear those numbers are due for a drop, as Haupert likely will see the ball plenty of times this season.
“I don’t think that’s going to be a secret,” Padget said with a laugh. “She’ll have to touch it pretty much every time we’re up or down the floor. We’re working hard on getting her in shape so she doesn’t have to come out much, so we’ll lean pretty heavily on her.”
The other key returner for the Raiders is senior Shelby Berg, who will be in her fourth year as a starting guard. Berg was second on the team with 8.1 points last year, but also led the team with 54 steals.
After Berg, however, the team flattens out quite a bit in terms of experience. Senior Ashley Girard would have been a valuable returning asset after she saw the floor in 21 games last year, but a preseason ACL injury will keep her off the court for the year.
“We’re pretty young after that,” Padget said. “We bring back a few girls that had some varsity experience last year, but not a lot.”
Among those younger players is sophomore MacKenzie Schmitz, who will be charged with running the point this season. Schmitz saw action in just four games last year, but Padget has praised her ball control skills. Joining her in the backcourt in fellow sophomore Lexi Breon, who is considered to be the team’s best shooter.
Although she’s not an underclassman, senior Kayla Hennick will see the first major varsity minutes of her career this season. She played in 14 games last year and averaged two points per game, but caught her coaches’ attention largely with her defense that allowed Padget to refer to her as a “pest” for opposing teams.
Senior Becky Williams and juniors Katie Ziesman and Hannah McWhirter will each see some time on the court as well, as the Raiders try to solve the depth issue that affected them throughout last season. They’ll need to be able to rotate players to keep up the likes of Roland-Story, North Polk and the rest of the challenging Heart of Iowa Conference.
“Obviously our conference is going to be one of the toughest again,” Padget said. “To me, it’s one of the best in the state I would think.”
The Raiders started their season on Nov. 16, and currently hold a record of 0-2. Their next game will be at Saydel on Nov. 27.