—by Todd Thorson

The Roland-Story girls’ basketball team began their season on the right track, getting off to a great start last Tuesday night (Nov. 26) in Story City. The Norsemen have instigated a theme for this season, "Hustle and Heart Set Us Apart", and that definitely applied to their doubling up of the CMB Raiders in their season opener. They ran away from their visitors in the fourth quarter, winning by 24 points and posting a final score of 46-22. The Norse held CMB’s best player Abbie Haupert to only one point, after she had poured in 24 in the Raiders’ first game of the season.

"We played with great composure and confidence on offense," said Coach Justin Morton, "and with a controlled intensity on defense. The girls did a great job of executing our game plan."

That game plan involved limiting Haupert’s touches in the lane and double teaming pretty much every time she got the ball. In the end, the Norse had 11 offensive rebounds and plenty of balanced scored, plus they committed only eight turnovers. Not too shabby for an opening game of a season, and a welcome sign for a team returning only two starters - Brooke Staker and Natalie Vance - from last year’s campaign.

Vance would lead the scoring on this night for the Norsemen, tallying 13. Alexa Whipple followed close behind with 12. Vance, who will be one of the team leaders this season, also had two three pointers and three steals. Brittany Hammes had three three pointers, good for nine points, and also grabbed nine rebounds. Tracy Olson posted seven points and seven boards, and Kirsten Waline added four points. Traci Marienau hauled down seven rebounds, while Whipple managed to grab five off the rim. Lexi Breon led CMB with 16 points.

CMB ran a box and one on Vance, and Coach Morton stated the girls hadn’t really practiced for this type of tactic yet, though they did face something similar in the jamboree a week earlier against South Hardin.

"The girls did a great job of adjusting to this (type of) defense," commented Morton. "We got the shots that we wanted throughout much of the game, which made a big difference in the outcome."

The Norse raced out to an 11-1 lead in the first period, as the sophomore Whipple scored six of her 12 points in the opening eight minutes. In the second quarter, the Norse began to pull away, hitting four three’s, including two each off the hands of Vance and Hammes. By halftime it was 25-10 in favor of the Norse. In the third period, CMB made a comeback attempt, pulling to within eight points on two occasions. At the start of the final frame, R-S was still in front by eight, 30-22. The Norsemen put an exclamation point on the victory by completely shutting down the Raiders in the fourth quarter, outscoring their visitors 16-0 to win by 24. Whipple and Vance each had two buckets in the final period.

"We got the shots that we wanted throughout much of the game," added Coach Morton, "which made a big difference in the outcome. We also did a great job of taking care of the ball, which was also a huge factor. Our press proved to be effective (as well). We gave them only one or two open shots off the press and (we) were able to get CMB out of sync and force some turnovers."

Season Outlook

Coach Justin Morton expects his 2013-14 Norsemen squad to be competitive this season, in each and every game. He hopes to compete well enough in conference play to be one of the top three or four teams in the Heart of Iowa Conference. A winning record would be a nice accomplishment as well.

"We will have a lot of people stepping into new roles this season," he said. "How quickly they embrace their new roles will play a big part in our success this season."

Joining returning starters Brooke Staker and Natalie Vance on this year’s team will be returning letterwinners Traci Marienau, a senior, juniors Brittany Hammes, Lexi Crutchfield, Kirsten Waline and Taylor Olson and sophomore Alexa Whipple. Currently the varsity squad also includes senior Paige Lowe and junior Alyssa Miller.

Following the CMB victory, the Norse girls were off for Thanksgiving. They returned to action last night (Tuesday) against Greene County on the road at Jefferson.