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Raider girls tip off Friday

Senior Kaitlyn Haag, left, junior Morgan Karras, junior Jamie Lindstrom and senior Maddie Ryan will lead a young Raider girls' basketball team when it opens the season Friday at home against Superior. Bob Burrows photo

A week isn't a very long time to prepare for a season. But that's what Raider girls' basketball coach Beth Graskewicz and her squad face as they prepare for their season opener Friday afternoon (Nov. 27) against Superior.

The Raiders and the rest of the WIAA girls' teams opened practice last Wednesday. With the first two days devoted to tryouts, that leaves barely a week to get ready for the season.

"We're not looking to have everything done by Friday," Graskewicz said before Saturday morning's practice. "Hopefully we'll have the schemes in, but right now we're just working on conditioning and getting our basketball legs back."

The coach said the team's youth has already raised the level of intensity in practice.

"I think the young kids have brought in more energy. We're more up-tempo in practice," she said.

The youngsters will look to the leadership of seniors Kaitlyn Haag and Jamie Lindstrom, and juniors Morgan Karras and Maddie Ryan to guide them. Haag, Lindstrom and Karras all saw significant action last year, and the team has chosen Karras and Ryan to be this year's captains.

Haag averaged 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals a game last year on her way to earning second team All-Big Rivers Conference, all-district honorable mention and team MVP awards. Already a three year starter, she signed a national letter of intent earlier this month to attend college and play basketball at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D. next year.

"Kait will be a key to our offense," Graskewicz said. "She's kind of our go-to player."

Graskewicz said Haag, Lindstrom and the other Raider post players will benefit from the team's increased speed.

"I think our team speed is going to be better," she said. "We're fortunate to have three or four post players who can run the floor, so we'll look to push the ball a little more."

The coach said defensively the Raiders should be quicker as well.

"We've always been really good in the halfcourt, but we're going to be quicker so we can do more trapping and change up our defense."

Graskewicz said the team has formed a special bond in its first week of practice. Lindstrom's mother, Debbie, died Nov. 3 of complications brought on by the H1N1 virus, and Graskewicz said the players have rallied around their teammate and her family as they prepare for the season.

"We're still in a healing process," the coach said. "But the chemistry on this team is really special and you can see it grow every day. They enjoy one another."

Graskewicz said she'll be looking for that chemistry to flourish in the team's season opener Friday.

"I want to see effort, and I want them to go hard," she said. "To leave it all on the floor and play with confidence."

The Raiders and Spartans will tip off at 2:30 p.m. in the high school's east gym.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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