Janesville Parker’s girls basketball team ended last season on a high note.
The Vikings won a WIAA Division 1 regional title and led state runner-up Mukwonago at halftime of a sectional semifinal game.
Coach Jennah Hartwig hopes the Vikings can build off the late-season momentum as they welcome back four starters, including UW-Green Bay recruit Julia Hartwig.
“We’ve got a good group of returning kids, including four seniors that have been playing together since fourth grade,” said Jennah Hartwig, whose team opens the season tonight against Waunakee. “After what we did in the tournament last year, they know what this team is capable of when it plays up to its potential.
“The key for us is to play with confidence. We have to be able to set the tone early, be tough and physical the whole game and be a well-rounded team.”
Julia Hartwig sets the pace for Parker. The 6-foot-2 senior is a two-time all-Big Eight selection and was The Gazette’s area player of the year last season.
She averaged 17.3 points per game and 15.8 rebounds last year. Her coach believes that her daughter can take her game to the next level.
“Julia played with a different AAU team this past summer that was much more fast-paced and played at much more of a college-like tempo,” Hartwig said. “That was good for her, because it allowed her to establish more of an outside game to go along with a very good inside presence.
“I think you’ll really see her expand her game this season and also be more of a leader for this team. She’s a senior and knows what’s at stake.”
Hartwig will be joined in the front court by junior Ryann Porter, who gives the Vikings two 6-foot-2 players in the post.
“Ryann has really worked hard in the offseason and is starting to understand that she has the talent to be a very good basketball player,” Hartwig said.
“With Julia and Ryann down low, we should create some real matchup problems for teams, because if you try to deny our post we’ve got quite a few girls that can knock down shots from the outside.”
Two other returning starters are junior Jena Forrestal and Tina Shelton. Forrestal led Parker in scoring in the postseason a year ago and had 11 3-pointers in the three tournament games. Shelton is probably the best athlete on the team, an excellent defender who averaged 8.8 points per game last season.
“Jena knows what she’s capable of when she plays with composure and doesn’t try to do too many things at once,” Hartwig said. “And Tina, I think, will play with a chip on her shoulder this season. She loves to compete and missed most of her track season and a chance to run at state because of an injury. That has really motivated her.”
Brooke Graesslin rounds out the list of returning starters. The senior averaged 5.8 points per game a year ago.
“Brooke dedicated herself to the weight room and it shows,” Hartwig said. “I think you’ll see her play with more confidence this season.”
Seniors Ashlyn Burdick and Sophia Dooman figure to be top reserves off the bench, along with sophomores Alli Rosga, Alexys Luek and Jasmyn Demrow.
“The younger kids bring a lot of energy each and every night in practice,” Hartwig said. “Hopefully, that carries over to our games.
“And Ashlyn and Sophia are two seniors that have done everything we’ve asked of them and continued to improve each and every year.”
Coach Hartwig also looks for seniors Tatyanna Manuel and Hannah Brunner to provide depth off the bench, along with juniors Bailee Forrestal and Shay Riley. Freshman Abby Blum is expected to be a part of the rotation at some points this season but is currently out with an injury.
“Success breeds success, and that’s one of the things we’ve really stressed,” Hartwig said. “There were times last year where we played complacent, or times when the girls said they weren’t having fun. I don’t think that will be a problem this year. Our practices have been intense. The girls are fighting and competing hard for minutes, and there have been a couple of times at practice where we had to pull back because of how physical things were getting.
“We’ve challenged each and every one of them to believe in themselves and their abilities, and if they can do that we’ve got a chance to do some good things.”