KEARNEY — Elm Creek girls basketball coach Mike Ford has a noticeable absence from this year’s roster.
Claire Cornell averaged 19.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 3.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game as a senior last season. She was one of two players to average double-digit points and was the team’s go-to player.
After posting a 17-6 mark last season, the Buffaloes’ roster features limited experience this year.
Seniors Allison Bauer, Madison Halliwell and Whitney Bauer are the team’s returning starters. Allison Bauer is the team’s leading returning scorer, after averaging 15.7 points per game last season.
Sophomores Haley Stone, Reagan Meier, Morgan Sindt and Ashley Brown are returning letterwinners.
“This year’s team is going to have to grow up quickly,” Ford said. “The amount of experience that will be on the floor at times will be low and they will have to learn to adjust to the speed of varsity level basketball.
“Our ability to get better every practice will dictate the type of season we will have. We will have some very good teams in the conference that are both extremely athletic and experienced.”
The Buffaloes’ season came to an end against Kenesaw in a district final game last season. They finished the year with a 16-8 record.
Coach Tanner Cavenee also has to replace a critical member of last year’s unit — Jaydn Ford averaged 16 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.7 steals last season.
Elm Creek has two returning starters on this year’s team. Junior guards Gage Claubaugh and Karsten McCarter are back after averaging a combined 18.9 points per game last season.
Juniors Lane Gutzwiller and Blake Egenberger and sophomores Trey Miner, Hans Robbins, Brandon Nuhfer and Troy Brumels are returning letterwinners for the Buffaloes.
Nathan Shafer, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, is an intriguing new addition for Elm Creek this season.
“Karsten, Gage and Trey will have to step-up when it comes to leadership for a team that will only have one senior on it,” Cavenee said. “Will have decent length but will have to play physical in order to hold our spots and rebound the ball.
“Not the thickest of kids but have decent length and solid team speed. Have to improve free-throw shooting, as we have lost some close games late in those situations. Play some really tough teams to start the year so we will know where we are at early.”
Micah Chrisinger enters his first season as the Elm Creek wrestling coach.
This year’s team features youth with sophomore Kody Smith at 113 pounds headlining that group. Smith placed third at the state wrestling tournament and concluded his freshman campaign with a 47-3 record last season.
“We have a young team this year with 10 underclassmen,” Chrisinger said. “Many of our wrestlers had a taste of success last year, and are anxious to work hard this year for more.”
The Buffaloes begin their season with the Elm Creek Quad at 5 p.m. Thursday.