The Bertrand Vikings have several reasons to be filled with optimism this year.
Quickness, defense, size, athleticism and experience add up to a strong likelihood the Vikings will improve on their 12-10 record from a year ago.
“We have a solid core of starters and lettermen returning with good size and quickness. If we stay healthy, we should be very competitive with everyone in our schedule,” said coach Craig Newcomb, who is entering his 25th year at the team’s helm.
All five starters are back, including seniors Jarret Bieker, a 6-1 forward, Jonah Nelson, a 5-9 guard and Joseph Pelton, a 6-5 forward.
Junior starters returning are 6-foot-6 center Chonsey Bieker and 6-1 guard Owen Kaps.
Jarret Bieker averaged 10 points per game and Chonsley Bieker averaged seven points and eight rebounds per game. He also led the Hub Territory in blocked shots.
Other returning lettermen are 6-1 junior forward Adan Gonzalez and 5-9 junior forward Reece Vinzant.
Few teams had worse luck last year than the Bertrand girls, who dealt with injury after injury and finished the year 3-18.
“As I reflect on last year’s season and the adversity we faced with so many injuries, I am hopeful for this year,” second-year coach Lindsey Robins said. “Last year many young players saw valuable time on the court, so I’m excited to build upon those experiences.”
The Vikings return four starters and four other letter winners but have already lost one starter, Sadie Maloley, to an injury suffered at the end of volleyball.
However, three senior starters have a wealth of experience. Kenzy Drain, a 5-5 guard, averaged seven points per game last year, while Johanna Ford, a 5-10 forward was at 13 points per game, and both earned honorable mention All-Republican Plains Activity Conference.
Yesenia Lopez, a 5-9 guard/forward “brings toughness to our defense with her speed and ability to cause turnovers,” Robison said.
Kaylee Dodson, a 5-11 junior, and Leah Schutz, a 5-6 guard, experienced injuries last season and are hungry to return.
Sophomores Bethany Pelton and Libby Kugler saw valuable varsity minutes as freshmen.
“As a team we are going to work extremely hard on our transition game and pressuring the ball.,” Robison said. “We will also focus on working together as a team and valuing everyone’s role.”