MARSHALL - The Marshall girls basketball team came into the 2013-14 season with an experienced squad that is ready to continue the streak of 20-win seasons.
"We have a number of kids coming back with a lot of experience," said Marshall head coach Dan Westby. "That should save us some time when it comes to verbiage and things like that. We should be able to do some other things because we have a lot of experience."
The Tigers have started strong, going 4-0 with wins against three section teams and two Southwest Conference opponents. MHS also has the No. 8 ranking in the latest Class 2A poll.
Though Marshall returns only two seniors, Hannah Bennett and Kenzie Beekman, they are looking to them for much of the leadership on the court.
"We have just two seniors and we're certainly going to lean heavily on them," Westby said. "We are going to look to those two kids to lead us, and those two kids should be able to lead us. They've been a part of this for a long time and they know how things work."
The Tigers have a half-dozen juniors on the team, many that saw varsity time as sophomores.
"We've got a number of juniors that played last year as sophomores. We have Morgan Saugstad who can play inside or outside, Jackie Petrich, who can play inside for us," said Westby. Callie Graff is a really good athlete. She can do a number of things. Haley Bennett is a kid who we feel strongly that we can bring in off the bench and she'll give us quality minutes."
Sarah Buysse and Meghann Naughton are the other two juniors who join seven sophomores that round out the roster.
With so many players available, Westby feels that depth is going to be an advantage for Marshall.
"One of the things we're excited about is we feel we can go nine or 10 kids deep," Westby said. "We should be able to stay fresh, which should allow us to play our fullcourt game for 36 minutes."
Another aspect the Tigers look forward to is balanced scoring. Through the first four games, a number of players have stepped up and scored in double figures.
"I think it's very important because if the ball isn't going in the basket for somebody, we should have other kids that can score," said Westby. "I think having a number of kids that can score is certainly good for this team."
One aspect the Tigers lack in is height, but Westby feels there are other areas that can help even the playing field.
"We're not big again, so we're going to have to find ways to score. Hopefully, we can look at our pressure as one way we can do that," Westby said. "We finished in the top 10 in our class last year in terms of team defense and that's something we're going to have to have again this year."
A unique aspect to Marshall's schedule this season is they will face each of their section opponents during the regular season, which could come into play during the postseason.
"We're excited to have eight section games on our schedule. We're the only team in our section that plays everybody," said Westby. "We're the only team that has that luxury, so really our fate is in our own hands as far as how we're going to be seeded come tournament time, so we're excited about that."
Dec. 6: at Hutchinson, W, 63-50
Dec. 7: Dassel-Cokato, W, 57-44
Dec. 10: Redwood Valley, W, 63-34
Dec. 12: at Worthington, W, 75-55
Dec. 17: at Jackson County Central
Dec. 20: at Luverne
Dec. 21: Mankato East
HOLIDAY HOOPS TOURNAMENT
Dec. 27: Delano at SMSU
Dec. 28: Sioux Falls O'Gorman at SMSU
Jan. 3: at Windom Area
Jan. 7: at New Ulm
Jan. 10: Pipestone Area
Jan. 11: at Sioux Falls Lincoln
Jan. 14: at Fairmont
Jan. 17: Sioux Falls Washington
Jan. 21: Jackson County Central
Jan. 28: at Redwood Valley
Jan. 31: Luverne
Feb. 1: at Hill-Murray
Feb. 6: Windom Area
Feb. 8: Worthington
Feb. 11: at Pipestone Area
Feb. 13: Willmar
Feb. 20: Sioux Falls Roosevelt
Feb. 22: Benilde-St. Margaret's
Feb. 24: at Mankato West