CHURCHILL — The Manhattan Christian girls basketball team went to the Class C state tournament two years in a row and with a fourth place finish last year, are looking to build off of that experience.
“You always have to turn that page and it’s always kind of bittersweet," head coach Jeff Bellach said about last year's team. "The foundation that they laid the last couple years, getting back to the start tournament and that’s something we want to continue to try to do every year.”
The Eagles lost some key cogs, as starters Eliana Kuperus, Taylor Devries and Kiersten Van Kirk have all either graduated or are about to graduate. They are three of the most prolific scorers in Manhattan Christian history.
“We definitely miss them, but I just believe that even though we came back with fewer girls and we’re a little smaller -- that just means we’re going to grow tighter together," said starting point guard, junior Grace Aamot. "Even though they are gone their legacy is still with us and we just love what they did here.”
Their legacy gave the team state tournament experience, but the Eagles are looking to build off the success of years prior and go even farther than a fourth place finish.
“That was good experience -- two years in a row getting to state was big for our program and our girls. A lot to built on from that. Obviously, we want to make the next step. Last year quite honestly, we weren't quite ready for it. It was good to be there and see that, though and experience that. I feel like it was a great season. Successful season. Something we can build on.”
One thing the team has is championship experience. Every single player on the team has won a state title in one sport or another.
“It’s so valuable because we know what it takes," said Natalie Walhof, who is the only senior on the team. "We know what attitude we have to have and how our mindset has to be going into it. It’s good to know what we’re up against.”
“That experience is something we can embrace and savor as we prepare and compete. It’s going to be a tough conference this year. I think everybody is a little bit better than they have been, but I think we have a chance to be there too,” Bellach said.
The Eagles are off to a 2-0 start this season behind great play from Grace Aamot, Ava Bellach and Katelyn Van Kirk and take on Conrad this Friday.