Girls basketball: Eagles aim for game-by-game improvements against battle-tested section
The New York Mills girls basketball team is excited to be in the thick of it against a loaded slate of Section 6A and Park Region Conference teams.
NEW YORK MILLS – After losing some girls last year to injury, New York Mills head coach Brian Dunrud can't wait to see what his team has in store for this season.
Dunrud's one goal for the team is to "improve."
"We lost some good girls last year, but we have a good returning group. We are in a competitive section and conference, so there will be a lot of balance, and that is good for us. When you are in close games, battles and when you are challenged by a solid non-conference schedule, it's always good."
The Eagles finished 17-10 overall, 8-5 in their section and 9-5 in the conference for a second-place tie with Henning, Wadena-Deer Creek and Pillager. The Eagles made it to the third round of the Section 6A tournament but were knocked out of the playoffs in a 55-36 loss to Underwood. Dunrud knows his team has the talent, but that talent only sometimes shows up on the scoreboard.
"We have talent, but talent doesn't always relate to wins and a successful season," he said. "We need to work hard. We can't take things for granted. What I mean by talent is we return a couple of players who were injured and some players who had a lot of experience last year. We have some size and athleticism. We need things to come together. We need players to buy in, and frankly, we need to challenge each other and work hard."
New York Mills roped off a five-game winning streak before falling to Underwood in the last game of the regular season a year ago. After beating Lake Park-Audubon and Ada-Borup-West in the first two rounds of sections, Underwood tripped up the Eagles again.
The Rockets finished as the top seed in the North sub-section with a record of 23-4. New York Mills was third behind Henning. In the South, top-seeded Hancock took its undefeated section record to a 30-1 finish and a Class A state championship.
Dunrud will look to his four seniors to use their experience to help lead the team through a challenging section. Kali Olson, Kailey Keskitalo, Maya Radniecki, and Isabella Bauck are excited to have their final high school basketball seasons underway.
I'm super excited to play with these girls again after being out last year due to an injury," Olson said. "I see us having an advantage with our bigs down low. Hopefully, we can carry that throughout the season."
All of the girls have high expectations for the Eagles. Radniecki wants to "Win a lot, have fun and work our hardest that we can."
Going into their senior season, the girls have set some personal goals for themselves that they hope to achieve before it is all said and done.
"I want to bring up my shooting percentages, knock down my free throws and try to drive and create more opportunities for myself," Radniecki said.
Keskitalo has been working on her game near the basket and hopes to see improvement in the pain.
"I'm hoping to become a stronger offensive player down low. I have been working on my strength and finishing."
With that being said, the seniors mentioned opponents that they couldn't wait to meet on the court this season.
Radniecki looks forward to their matchups with Wadena-Deer Creek this season. Keskitalo has Henning eyed up this year. Bauck is looking for her revenge against Underwood after they knocked them out of the playoffs last season, while Olson wants to show Hancock how much the team has improved over the offseason.
Dunrud, on the other hand, likes to look at the season from a different perspective.
"How about the NFL philosophy, where it's week to week, game by game?" he said. "I look at the first game against Underwood. I know they are going to be solid and bring it right away. We want to show up and compete from game one and get better right on through. There is a lot of balance between the conference and the section. We just have to get better every game."
Dunrud is geared up for his 10th season as head coach after an energetic stretch of practices.
"I feel like the girls' attitudes are good. We are doing some good things in practice." Dunrud said. "Between the fall and winter seasons, I had a break this year, which was a good and bad thing. A good thing because I had a break but a bad thing because our football team lost. I feel ready and rejuvenated."