2013-14 Winter Preview: Park girls basketball team should be conference, section force once again
The Park girls basketball program has enjoyed some salad days the past two seasons. This winter, the Wolfpack should be a force to be reckoned with once again.
Park boasts a deep and talented roster with a mix of experienced seniors and up-and-coming underclassmen.
“I am very excited for the returning players who have worked hard to prepare for this season,” Park head coach Stephanie Tolkinen said. “We have 11 seniors who will be able to provide leadership in many different ways. I think if our girls can stay focused on our team goals and make each other better every day in practice, we have a good chance to be a top team in our section and conference.”
Leading the way for the Wolfpack will be senior guard Sydney Lamberty.
One of the state’s best players, Lamberty — the team’s captain — averaged 18.1 points per game and a team-best 6.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists last season. Lamberty, who signed to play Div. I basketball with Creighton, has been a varsity starter for the Wolfpack since her freshman year. She is already the school’s all-time leader in assists and steals for her career and will very likely become Park’s all-time scoring leader this season. She’s currently second on the list in Park history with 1,679 points.
But, Tolkinen knows that one player doesn’t make a team. Joining Lamberty in the lineup is fellow senior Temi Ogunrinde at forward/center and junior twin sisters Annie Williams and Carlie Williams. Other key returners include: seniors Lauren Rein, Mikayla Jones, Mallorie Briggs, Emily Burazin, Erin Diamond, Jaclyn Glazier, Danielle Myers, Molly Swanson and Alissa Troje; juniors Emily Lange and Hannah Schwartz; and sophomore Ally Gorres.
Park does need to replace two key graduates in Larissa Lurken and Courtney Waldo this year. Lurken, who is currently playing Div. I basketball for Kent State University in Ohio, led the team in scoring as a senior with 18.1 points per game and is the school’s all-time leading scorer.
Last year, Park finished 23-6 overall and 15-3 in the Suburban East Conference, which was good for second place behind Roseville. The team earned a big win over the Raiders, but also lost to rival Woodbury twice.
Park and Roseville should contend for the conference crown again, but Forest Lake and senior forward Bailey Norby, who will join Lamberty at Creighton, is projected as the top team in the SEC this season.
“Forest Lake will be a very strong team this year,” Tolkinen said. “They have many returning players who are big contributors to their success. Stillwater will be much improved as well. The SEC is a very strong and completive conference. We will have to be our best every night.”
In Section 4AAAA, Eastview has stood in Park’s way of the state tournament the past two seasons. The Lightning tipped the Wolfpack in the section championship the past two years. Led by juniors Madison Guebert and Hana Metoxen, Eastview is ranked as high as No. 2 in the state this year by publications.
Park opens the season against the Lightning on the road on Dec. 3. In all, the Wolfpack’s first four games are against the top teams in the section. After Eastview, Park plays Apple Valley on Dec. 6, Rosemount on Dec. 10 and Eagan on Dec. 12.
“We will get a good idea right away where we are,” Tolkinen said.