Senior trio to lead Lady Pioneers

by Ben Murphy
Sports Writer
The Clare girls basketball team had a resurgent year last winter, going 14-7 overall and 12-2 in the Jack Pine Conference to share the league title with Gladwin. The Lady Pioneers only return three players from that team, but that hasn’t kept them from having high hopes for this season.

“We’ve had a great off-season,” head coach Kevin Richards said. “There have been some players really putting in a lot of time. We’ll look forward to seeing it pay off. We have a strong core of seniors that are leading the way. What we don’t lack in size, we make up for in speed and effort.”

Back from last winter will be seniors Natalee Kunse (guard, forward, honorable mention all-state), Peyton Hubel (guard, honorable mention JPC) and Ellie Johnson (guard, honorable mention all-conference).

Natalee Kunse knocks down a shot last season.  Photo by Shannon Zinser

Natalee Kunse knocks down a shot last season.
Photo by Shannon Zinser

“Our seniors are definitely our leaders that bring a lot of experience,” Richards said. “Natalee is a four year varsity player and Peyton and Ellie, we brought up as sophomores. It was very nice to see Cami come out this year too, she has been a great addition.”

Making their varsity debuts will be senior Cami Miller (forward), juniors Olivia Haring (guard), Tarryn Winter (guard), Lainey Veenkant (guard), Kylie Chicilli (forward), Regan Weeks (guard, forward), Cassidy Ogg (forward), sophomore Brooklyn Tocco (forward) and freshman Bailey Taylor (guard).

“We had a few shootouts this summer and have had scrimmages the past few Saturdays against great competition,” Richards said. “From a team standpoint, our girls have put in a lot of time not only on the court, but with their training as well. We have a few players that put in countless hours outside of practice time and it shows.

“They are all very unselfish and want their teammates to succeed,” he added. “As a team, we want to get better every day and if we do that, everything else should take care of itself.”

Clare opened its season at home against Gaylord St. Mary on Tuesday, hosts Houghton Lake tonight (Friday) and hosts Meridian next Friday.

“Health is always something that plays a big factor, we need to focus on improving every practice and every game,” Richards said. It is a long season so we need to put our energy towards things we can control. Gladwin will be tough against this year and there are some good players and coaches in the conference, along with some teams that are really improving.”

Clare opened its season with a 49-42 win over St. Mary on Tuesday.

“We played well defensively and for the first game of the year, we executed really well down the stretch,” Richards said. “They are a good team, they had a heavy focus defensively on Natalee, who still had 10 points, five assists, four blocks and three steals. Ellie really stepped up and had 20 points and Peyton hit some clutch shots and ended up with eight points and seven rebounds.”

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