Whether wins or losses stack up this season, one thing is for sure when it comes to Verona girls basketball: the Wildcats are a youthful bunch.
Verona returns five letterwinners in the form of three seniors and two juniors, but underclassmen could play a pivotal role in building depth for a program looking to contend in the rugged Big Eight Conference.
“The players are very coachable and willing to do what is asked of their role on the team,” Wildcats coach Angie Murphy said. “We are very young, with an average player age of 15.5. We will need to prove we can handle pressure and finish around the rim.”
Senior guards Rayna Briggs and Rachel Parman are expected to be stalwarts in the backcourt. Briggs was a second-team all-conference honoree last season after averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds per game. Parman “will be expected to take on a bigger role both offensively and defensively this year,” according to Murphy.
“Rayna Briggs and Rachel Parman need to lead not only by example,” Murphy said, “but with their maturity being the most experienced returning players.”
Rachel Witthuhn returns as a senior post for the Wildcats.
Junior Katie Peterson “needs to look to be more of an offensive threat,” according to Murphy. Junior Morgan Grignon is another returning letterwinner who played significant minutes as a sophomore last season.
Murphy listed sophomores Anna Nielsen and Lexi Stremlow, her freshman daughter Megan Murphy and fellow freshmen Paige Lambe and Abbi Rupnow as key newcomers in a questionnaire sent out by the Press.
Verona finished 14-9 overall last season, falling to Waunakee in a Division 1 regional. The Wildcats were fifth in the Big Eight with an 11-7 mark, behind Middleton, Madison Memorial, Sun Prairie and Madison La Follette.
Angie Murphy’s alma mater, Middleton, won the conference last year with a 16-2 mark. Memorial senior point guard Leilani Kapinus, who missed the majority of the last two seasons with ACL injuries, is healthy and ranked 30th in espnW’s 2020 Hoopgurlz Rankings.
“The conference is very competitive and some experienced teams are coming back in Madison Memorial and Middleton,” said Murphy, a 1993 Middleton grad who is still fifth on the state’s all-time scoring list with 2,378 points. “We will be challenged by veteran teams because we are so young. We will fight hard to make it in the top half of the conference and to reach our potential as a team.”
Verona starts the season with a nonconference road game at Stoughton on Tuesday, Nov. 19. The Wildcats begin Big Eight play at home Saturday, Nov. 23, against Janesville Parker.