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Size, athleticism make Raider girls contenders

The 2005-06 Hudson girls basketball team won't have an easy time recapturing the Big Rivers Conference title that has eluded it in the years since Annie Nelson led the Raiders to a state championship in 2002.

Chippewa Falls has all but one starter back from a team that advanced to last year's state tournament. And Megan Givens, the scoring leader on last year's Raider squad, has transferred to Breck School for her senior year.

Still, Coach Dave Johnson expects this year's team to be in the thick of the battle for the Big Rivers crown.

"Anybody is beatable. You've just got to come to play," he said. "Everybody will be shooting at (Chippewa Falls). They'll realize real quickly that they're in a different situation than they have been in."

Johnson knows something about being the team everyone else is looking to dethrone. In his 20 years as the head girls basketball coach at Hudson High, his teams have won nine conference championships and made seven trips to the state tournament in Madison. His Raider teams captured Division 1 state crowns in 1998 and 2002, and were the runners-up in 2000. The Hudson girls' last appearance at the state tournament came in 2003.

This year, Johnson is counting on three players that started or played significant minutes last season to lead another winning campaign. Six-foot-one senior Katie Layman is expected to give the Raiders solid play under the basket. Juniors Tara Schuknecht and Sharyn Dahl, both 5-9, will provide good quickness and size at the wings.

Johnson also expects 5-3 senior Kari Sterner, 5-3 junior Megan Anderson, 5-11 junior Meg Hawksford and 5-11 sophomore Amy Frye to play leading roles.

Sophomores Chelsea Bouzard, a 5-4 guard, Emily Rose, a 5-11 post, Sarah Hanson, a 5-9 wing, and Makenzie Buelow, a 5-6 guard, will round out the varsity squad.

Johnson said he's pleased with what he's seen from the team so far.

"We've got some young kids that have played pretty good. We're going to be a young team with just two seniors and four juniors, but we've got some sophomores that are capable," he said.

"I think we know what we're going to get out of Katie Layman. She's going to be steady - a tough defender inside and a good rebounder. (Plus) she can score inside."

He added, "I like our athleticism and our size out on the wings with Schuknecht and Sharyn Dahl."

Sterner, Anderson and Bouzard are competing for the starting point guard spot, he said.

"So we have good size, some capable people, some experience and some young kids who are hungry to play," he said. "I'm looking forward to the season."

The Hudson girls get their first test of the new season this weekend when they host the annual Raider Thanksgiving Classic. They play Osceola Friday night (Nov. 25) and Breck School Saturday night. Both games are in the East Gym at Hudson High School, starting at 7 p.m.

The Raider JV plays Osceola at 5 p.m. Friday and Breck at 5 p.m. Saturday in the West Gym.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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