2A South East Idaho Conference Preview
Written by Madison Guernsey
Players to Watch
Hope Driscoll (Aberdeen)
Yasmin Ortiz (Aberdeen)
Ellie Watson (Aberdeen)
Hailey Humpherys (Bear Lake)
Kalisha Parker (Bear Lake)
Kaitlynn Moldenhauer (Soda Springs)
Kajsia Fuller (West Side)
Sienna Fuller (West Side)
Soda Springs has rarely been challenged in the 2A South East Idaho Conference over the years, and even though the Cardinals lost six seniors from last year's state title team, it's unwise to cast them aside.
But Soda's leaguemates wont provide pushover victories.
Aberdeen, Bear Lake and West Side all return all-conference talent this season, setting the stage for a highly competitive district.
“Our district, from top to bottom, will be very tough this year, which I think is a huge plus,” Bear Lake coach Brenda Messerly said. “Every game will be a battle and an opportunity for each team to grow and learn.”
Soda Springs' most significant departure is Sadie Gronning, the reigning all-conference and all-state player of the year. She teamed with fellow all-state seniors Jorianne Balls and Dani Smith to lead the Cardinals to their 15th district championship in the 19-year tenure of head coach Wade Schvaneveldt – an indication of the excellence the program has sustained for nearly two decades.
And of course, with all the success has come roster shuffling as new players join and exit the program. The 2020-21 campaign won't be any different, but this crop of Cardinals has some large holes to fill.
Balls, Gronning and Smith combined to score 128 of Soda Springs' 165 points at last season's state tournament. Kaitlynn Moldenhauer was the only non-senior to accumulate double-digit points (13) during the three-day sprint to the title. Moldenhauer, now a senior, will lead a group of fresh-faced Cardinals into season.
Soda Springs' toughest conference challenger last season was Bear Lake, which went to state for the first time in over a decade. The Bears return two all-conference players – junior forward Kalisha Parker and all-state senior guard Hailey Humpherys – and are promoting a handful of experienced junior varsity players to bolster the varsity squad.
“Eliza Sharp, Lydia Johnson, Tylinn Hennick and Elise Kelsey will be huge additions to our varsity team this year,” Messerly said. “They all played big minutes on the junior varsity team last year, which will help them to step in and contribute immediately this season.”
Aberdeen was also a tough out and was mentioned by the league's coaches as a potential surprise team this season. The Tigers return nearly their entire roster from a season ago – led by all-conference juniors Hope Driscoll and Ellie Watson – and are strengthened by the return of junior point guard Yasmin Ortiz, who missed most of last season with an injury. Ortiz was second-team all-conference as a freshman (2018-19).
First-year coach Lincoln Driscoll also mentioned junior guard Courtney Phillips as an impact returner who gained varsity experience as an underclassman.
“These four girls have had to grow up quick having to play a lot of varsity time as freshmen
because of low numbers in upper classes … and have handled it amazing,” coach Driscoll said. “A young varsity team very familiar with the varsity experience, they have always been willing to work and been great leaders and examples to all the girls in the system.”
West Side is also considered a team on the rise. The Pirates went 4-18 last season, but won two of their final four games, and bring back all-conference senior center Kajsia Fuller and her sister, junior forward Sienna Fuller.
“I think West Side could surprise our conference,” Lincoln Driscoll said. “They were coming on strong in the end of last season and most of their team is coming back with a couple good JV players moving up.”
Malad went 0-20 last season and is still rebuilding under second-year head coach Ty Price. The Dragons lost four seniors from last season's squad and will be young again in 2020-21. Seniors Riley Dorius and Shannen Hudnell were regular contributors for Malad last season as juniors.