With just 11 girls out for basketball this year, coach Alan Stahlecker still believes they can be competitive in the Wheat State League, especially as the season progresses and they gain experience.
They will face two new league teams, Herington and Canton-Galva, bringing the number of teams in the league to 10.
Summer Espinoza, Shelby Pankratz, and Kate Basore are returning starters.
Pankratz, a 5 foot, 8 inch guard, was leading scorer last year at 10 points per game. She was named to all-league first team for two years.
Espinoza, a 5-8 senior, is a forward.
“She is a good all-around player who contributes on both ends of the floor and has played a significant role the last two seasons,” Stahlecker said.
Junior Kate Basore, a 5-10 post player who played on varsity last year, is an excellent rebounder who had several double-doubles in the latter part of the season, Stahlecker said.
Other returning players include letter winners senior Katie Marler and juniors Janel Dones and Emily Schlesener as well as juniors Grace Peterson, Becca Casey, and senior Kaitlin Brunner.
“Two newcomers, freshman Kelsey Hett and exchange student Haizea Diego look as though they will contribute,” Stahlecker said.
He expects defending champion Goessel to be the league team to beat, as several experienced players are returning. He expects Solomon, Canton-Galva, and Rural Vista to finish near the top.
“I fully expect that we can and will compete with anyone in the league, so I expect us to be near the top of the standings,” Stahlecker said.
With an expanded league, not many non-league games are on the schedule.
“We could face a tough Marion team in the annual Cougar Classic in January,” Stahlecker said. “We do face Chase County as well as Blue Valley-Randolph in February, and those will both be tough games.”
Centre will open the season at 6 p.m. Friday at home against Central Christian of Hutchinson. They will play at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 in the opening round of the pre-season tournament at Herington.
Last year’s team had a record of 3-4 in the Wheat State League and tied for fourth place. They finished 5-16 overall.
They followed teams that made three consecutive state appearances. With six seniors on the team, Centre finished third in its third trip in 2015.
Stahlecker is in his eighth season as head coach and 13th year at Centre. He has a career record of 92-66 as head coach.