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Spartans starting a complete rebuild

Somerset's Anna Rybacki (10) gets off a tough shot over Rice Lake's Brooke Olson (31) in the first half of the Spartans' 77- 43 home loss Thursday. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia

A complete rebuild doesn't mean starting at the bottom.

The Somerset girls basketball team begins the 2017-18 season with a completely new starting lineup with two girls possessing any varsity experience.

They are not alone. Many of the teams in the Middle Border Conference this season are expected to place very young lineups on the court, so the expectations are that the Spartans should be able to compete with most of the MBC teams this season.

In their season opening game against Rice Lake last Thursday, the Spartans showed the ability to be a competitive team. Rice Lake is a very capable team, but the Spartans stuck with them throughout the first half, trailing 41-32 at halftime.

Somerset's inexperience showed more in the second half and Rice Lake was able to pull away for a 77-43 victory.

The only players returning with varsity experience are senior Anna Rybacki and junior Georgia Hammer. Senior Tori Gareis moves up from the JV as another starter. The two other starters are freshmen: Rachel Gaikowski and Dani Schachtner.

Rybacki is clearly the floor leader for the Spartans. She was a part of the rotation for each of the past two seasons when the Spartans advanced to the WIAA sectional tournament level. She led the Spartans with 12 points against Rice Lake and she did the majority of the ball handling.

Rice Lake gave the Spartans a major test because the Warriors are led by 6-2 center Brooke Olson. With Somerset's lack of experience in the post and Olson's presence, Rice Lake had a large rebounding advantage in Thursday's game.

With the drastic changeover from last season, Somerset coach Cory Lindenberg was quite pleased that the Spartans were able to be competitive with a team the quality of Rice Lake.

"Thirty-two points in a half against Rice Lake shows we'll be OK. We've just got to get consistent," Lindenberg said.

He said Rice Lake took advantage of the Spartans' inexperience, mainly when the Spartans were on defense.

"The team defense concepts are going to take awhile to come around," Lindenberg predicted. "We defended well at the point of attack and we didn't concede many straight-line drives."

Lindenberg said he doesn't want the girls to feel any expectations this season because of what was accomplished with the program in the past.

"We're focused on this year and making this team the best it can be," he said.

The next time the Spartans take the court will be next Tuesday when they play at Unity. Two nights later they will be home in a non-conference game against Barron.

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for more than 30 years.

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