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Good start could make Mayo's season

Spartans have sputtered out of gate the past two seasons

By Donny Henn

dhenn@postbulletin.com

The Rochester Mayo girls basketball team has been the Popeye of the Big Nine Conference the last two seasons, strong to the finish with impressive win strings in January and February.

But just like Popeye, who always got knocked around early in cartoons by his arch-nemisis Bluto, both of Mayo's last two campaigns started with a series of unfortunate losses in November and December.

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Angie Meister aims to get Mayo off to a better start in her third season as head coach, and if that happens the Spartans could be legitimate contenders for a conference crown.

"We're very exctied about this year," said Meister, 30. "This will be the most experienced team I've had, and we're definitely tall with size and strength inside."

Mayo made a remarkable midseason turnarnound last year for the second season in a row. Mayo was 1-12 at one point but won nine of its last 10 games, including nine straight conference wins to close the season. Mayo finished 11-7 in the Big Nine and tied for third place with John Marshall.

The Spartans finished 11-14 overall with a 41-40 overtime loss to Owatonna in the first round of the Section 1AAAA tournament.

It was nearly a replay of Meister's first season as head coach in 2003-04, when Mayo got off to a 1-8 start and finished with the same records of 11-14 overall and 11-7 in the conference.

"We weren't bad early in the season; we lost games by some small margins," Meister said. "But we really came together after Christmas. We made some changes defensively and stuck to our defensive goals, and held teams to what we wanted to hold them to."

Meister is optimistic because she has three returning starters, plus another who started part-time. She also has a new player who transferred in and will surely bolster the inside game.

Mayo's returning starters are all interior players who led the team in scoring and rebounding last season: Senior 5-11 center/forward Alyssa Lunde (8.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg); senior 6-foot center Karolina Haraldsdottir (8.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg); and senior 5-8 center Marissa Rathbun (4.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg).

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Ashley Westergaard (3.6 ppg) is a 5-6 senior guard who started part-time last year.

Mayo will benefit from the addition of 5-11 senior center Julia Hirssig, a transfer student from Rochester Faith Christian

"Julia is a great asset right off the bat," Meister said. "Even though she went through the basketball ranks in a small school she made herself into a big-time player."

Mayo suffered a setback before the season with a season-ending injury to starting guard Breanna Ean. Ean, a junior who average 3.0 points last year, suffered a torn ACL at the end of the soccer season.

BOX; Varsity Roster

No. Player Ht Pos Yr

; 1 Julia; Hirssig 5-11 C 12

; 3 Ashley; Westergaard 5-6 G 12

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; 5 Carly; Grassle 5-6 G 10

; 11 Tess; Hanson 5-5 G/F 10

; 15 Taryn; Johnson 5-4 G/F 11

; 21 Mackenzie; Flaharty 5-9 G/F 11

; 23 Zamzow; Mumn 5-3 G 12

; 25 Karolina; Haraldsdottir 6-0 C 12

; 31 Allyson; Oeltjen 6-1 C 11

; 35 Amanda; Larson 6-0 C 10

; 41 Alyssa; Lunde 5-10 C 12

; 45 Marissa; Rathbun 5-8 G/F 12

; Head coach: Angie Meister, third season (22-28 career record).

Assistant coaches: Kerrie Babcock (varsity), Nicole Vadnais (B squad). Managers: .Sara Leisen, Kyle Warnken.

; Schedule

(*Indicates non-conference game)

Nov. 26 -- vs. Lakeville South at Lakeville North, 3:30 p.m.

Dec. 2 -- *at Farmington

Dec. 9 -- Austin

Dec. 13 -- at Mankato East

Dec. 16 -- Winona

Dec. 17 -- *at Eagan

Dec. 20 -- at Albert Lea

Dec. 22 -- at Century

Dec. 27-29 -- *at Rotary Holiday tournament

Jan. 6 -- Faribault

Jan. 10 -- at Owatonna

Jan. 14 -- John Marshall

Jan. 20 -- at Mankato West

Jan. 24 -- Century

Jan. 27 -- Albert Lea

Jan. 28 -- *Bloomington Kennedy

Feb. 3 -- at Austin

Feb. 7 -- Mankato East

Feb. 10 -- at Winona

Feb. 14 -- at Faribault

Feb. 17 -- Owatonna

Feb. 21 -- Mankato West

Feb. 24 -- at John Marshall

Note: Varsity games start at approximately 7:30 p.m. unless noted otherwise.

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