Even without a potentially dominant center, Elma’s girls basketball forecast should remain sunny.
The Eagles graduated Carly Meister, a two-time all-state post who is currently logging significant playing time at Southern Oregon. She was preceded in the middle by Brandi Thomas, now a starter at Washington State.
Those who assume that the Eagles —who went 18-5 and seemed a likely state participant until Meister suffered a season-ending knee injury in district competition — are in a rebuilding mode may well be in for a rude awakening.
Blessed with outstanding speed and good depth, Elma remains the consensus favorite to repeat as Evergreen 1A League champion.
Elma opens its season Dec. 1 with a non-leaguer at Black Hills.
“This group of girls, from top to bottom, are probably one of my better teams,” Elma coach Lisa Johnson said. “We have the speed, the athleticism, the shooters and they’re tearing up the hardwood in practice.”
Johnson acknowledges that this club is likely to differ significantly stylistically from the clubs that relied heavily on Meister to score from inside the paint and crash the offensive glass at every opportunity.
Elma returns 6-foot senior Megan Finger, a two-year starter, but she has been most effective from the perimeter and along the baseline during her career.
Instead, the Eagles will likely try to utilize their speed and play pressure defense at every opportunity.
Junior guard Brooke Goldsmith figures to be the catalyst to Elma’s running game. An exceptional all-around athlete, the speedy Goldsmith will be difficult to match up against.
“Her biggest attribute is going to be getting (points) off the steals and finishes,” Johnson said.
The remainder of the starting lineup will be fluid. Five-foot-9 senior Miranda McDonald seems likely to open at a wing.
Other possible starters include 5-6 junior Sydney Smythe, regarded by Johnson as the team’s defensive stopper, 5-6 senior Ashlyn Malmstrom and 5-5 sophomore Ashley Cooper, who played well late last season after recovering from a bout with mononucleosis.
Six-one sophomore Izzy Cristelli and 5-8 senior Kayla Pacheco could be part of the rotation. Other varsity performers will be senior Regan Wollen, returning to basketball after missing a couple of seasons due to knee injuries, and junior Taryn Farrar.
Madeline Thompson, a promising 5-8 freshman, could have an impact as the season progresses.
With graduation, transfer and reclassification taking a heavy toll throughout the league, Johnson sees experienced Hoquiam as her team’s toughest hurdle this season.
Former junior high coach (and longtime football aide) Bryan Schneider joins the Elma staff as an assistant this season. Brighton Stenek returns as a volunteer assistant.