Girls' Basketball: Raiders start first season under new head coach
The Hastings Raiders girls' basketball program has undergone some drastic changes since the end of the 2017-18 season. They have a new head coach in Joe Lynch, and lost the leading scorer in Hastings basketball history (both boys and girls) in Krystal Carlson. However, junior Mallory Brake returns along with several players who got plenty of varsity experience last season.
Lynch brings his own philosophies to Hastings and looks to make his mark on the program as quickly as possible.
"One of my main philosophies is I'm a defensive coach first," he said. "I'm man-to-man, person-to-person, and that's what I'm going to try and emphasize and that's what I'm going to try and teach. That's what I'm hoping that we can learn and pick up on most quickly. I think it's kind of the fundamental (cornerstone) for everything else. If we play a little zone, or if we trap full-court or half-court, if we've got those fundamentals from person-to-person then I think it's easier to get into explanation of coverages and those types of things."
"Then my second is we just got to work really hard," Lynch said. "One of the things I've been talking to our team about is I'm not measuring success in terms of wins or losses, I'm measuring success in terms of length of strides that we make, in terms of change. I know they played a different system in the past, offensively and defensively, so it's going to be a new experience for everybody including the coaching staff. But I think if we grow together, we learn together then I think that will go a long way."
However, one of the challenges that Lynch faces right away is growing the program at all levels as he faces a numbers shortage at the high school level.
"Well, what I'm faced with right away is just numbers," he said. "We've got 17 girls out and it's highly likely that we'll probably only going to have a varsity and a junior varsity team and that's it. So I've got to work on building the numbers. I don't know where the players are, I don't know where they've gone, I don't know if they've been discouraged or encouraged. I have to work with our travel program and our middle school to try and get the numbers back into basketball."
Heading into the season, Lynch said he is happy with the experience level of the returning players that will form the core of the team.
"One thing is we've got some players returning who have some varsity experience. It's not where I came from, they graduated seven seniors and five of them were four-year players on the varsity. And I think we've got a diversity of grade-levels with experience, so I've got eighth-grade, ninth-grade, 10th-grade, 11th-grade, all have some varsity experience, all are returning with that varsity experience and I think that will contribute."
Returning from last year's varsity team are sophomore Shea Levos, senior Megan Mattson, freshman Lilly Nuytten, junior BriAnna Amundson, Brake, freshman Maggie Schlottman, eighth-grader Ashley Fritz, junior Emily Biscoe, senior Megan Tietjen and sophomore Hannah Schultz. Newcomers are freshmen Alizayeighaye Sanders, Olivia Mattson and Olivia Lussier; sophomores Linnea Hanson, Avery Daley and Brooke Jackson and junior Jada Lussier. Megan Mattson and Tietjen are the team's lone seniors.
In years past, under former head coach Padrick Judd, the Raiders rarely went deep into their bench—especially in big games—though that changed a little bit last season. However, under Lynch that will change entirely.
"I want to try and develop a deep bench because I know I'm going to play a different style, we're going to push the pace, we're going to attack on defense so I'm gonna need bench players, eight, nine, 10," he said. "We've got 10 games in December, we've got almost half of our games done by the end of December. So we have a really busy December, so again trying to play multiple kids so we don't get kids burnt out and too tired just within the first month."
Another challenge facing Lynch is replacing Carlson, who not only was a prolific scorer but also was a leading rebounder and tenacious defender.
"Well we graduated 20 points a game in Krystal Carlson, so I've got to find 20 points a game," Lynch said. "Encouraging kids who probably haven't had that scorer mentality or that scorer role, obviously we're going to count on Mallory (Brake), but she's got to have support and kids have to be willing to step up and do that. And that's not always natural, especially if they've played a lesser role previously. They've got to know I've got confidence in them to shoot the ball, especially the kids who have proven to me that they can shoot the ball and be successful with that."
This will also mean a change in roles for Brake, who in the past has had Carlson to help alleviate some of the pressure from opposing defenses.
"She's going to have to be more patient, she's going to have to rely on others, she's going to have to pick spots. She's not going to be able to take the ball and score at will because teams will probably double-team her or do their very best to prevent her from getting the ball in the first place," Lynch said. "So we've got to have other kids willing to step up, but by the same token we have to have kids willing to do that. She's going to give up some opportunities trusting, counting on her teammates and I think she's that kind of player."
Hastings opens the season with six-straight games on the road. The Raiders start with a tournament in Red Wing and then travel to Burnsville, Rosemount, East Ridge and Eagan before their home opener against Minneapolis South on Thursday, Dec. 6. Other non-conference games include St. Croix Lutheran, Hudson, Woodbury and Park.