Jennah Hartwig thinks the pieces are in place for Janesville Parker to finish near the top of the Big Eight Conference standings.

The third-year Vikings girls basketball coach is working to make sure her players believe in themselves, as well.

Six-foot-2 Julia Hartwig returns for her junior season after leading the league in rebounding and ranking second in scoring. And the Vikings have a variety of experienced players around her that Jennah Hartwig hopes lead to an improvement on a 10-13 overall finish and 9-9 Big Eight record a year ago.

“We’d really like to finish top three in conference. We haven’t been there for a little bit, so it’d be nice to get back up there,” said Jennah Hartwig, whose team opens at Verona on Friday night. “‘Believe’ is a big word that just keeps ticking through my mind that I have to keep throwing out to the girls a lot.

“You’ve got the talent. You have to believe and do the work. I’m excited for the season.”

Julia Hartwig continues to receive Division I college interest after a season in which she averaged 19 points and 13.8 rebounds per game.

She’s a matchup nightmare for most teams and seemed to only get stronger as her sophomore year wore on. Hartwig—Jennah’s youngest daughter—scored at least 24 points and pulled down at least 14 rebounds in five of her final six games last year.

“She had a really nice summer playing AAU, which was good because she didn’t play the summer before,” Jennah Hartwig said. “She’s moving better and is stronger. She’s taken on more of a leadership role this year, which is nice to see.”

It should be interesting to see how opponents attempt to defend Julia Hartwig, especially without another 6-foot post player in the Parker lineup. Teams had to game plan for 2017 graduate Kam Blaser—the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder—a year ago.

Jennah Hartwig believes she has a good variety of slashing guards and shooters that will be able to keep teams honest.

“I feel like we’ve got a stronger unit, overall,” she said. “I think it’s going to be harder to stop one (player) and not have other players respond.”

Senior guard Jacy Benway returns after scoring 6.4 points per game last year. Junior Brooke Graesslin should be even stronger after playing 14 games coming off an ACL injury a year ago. And the Vikings got young players some early minutes, so Tina Shelton and Jena Forrestal are sophomores but have a year’s worth of varsity experience.

“Brooke came back last season but is just looking a lot better, and then you have Jena, who had to do more than her lion’s share as a freshman with Brooke hurt,” Hartwig said. “So we’ve got a nice little mix of experience at the point guard position.”

Senior Cam Rosga returns from a knee injury, and senior Alexis Fenrick and juniors Ashlyn Burdick and Sophia Dooman give Hartwig further options at the guard positions.

She expects 5-foot-8 junior Mirnaly Veguilla to help out with rebounding inside. Junior Chelsea Naber is coming back from a knee injury and will provide depth at the forward position, along with sophomore 6-footer Ryann Porter and senior Becca Vincetich.

“We can go nine or 10 deep,” Hartwig said. “I’ve got some kids that, on any given night, I can see stepping up.

“It’s a nice mix.”

It’s a mix the Vikings hope lands them among the top contenders in the Big Eight.

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