There is a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the girls athletic programs at Fremont Bergan.
The Lady Knights won the Class D-1 state volleyball championship earlier this month. The girls' basketball team returns several key players off of last season's 18-7 squad that qualified for C-2 state tournament.
"I think all of the girls are ready to go out and compete again," Bergan coach Nate Pribnow said. "We're excited to get out there. I think it will be another fun year for us."
Like in volleyball, the Lady Knights are dropping down a class to D-1 for the 2018-19 season.
"I don't think the girls think much about that at all," Pribnow said. "There are good teams in D-1, just like there are good teams in C-2. We're still going to play our Centennial Conference schedule where we are playing the majority of C-1 schools night in and night out. Sometimes it is harder to win games in the conference tournament than the district tournament. We just look at it that the game we are playing that night is the most important game on our schedule. We don't look ahead. The girls have bought into that mentality."
The Lady Knights lost three starters to graduation, including Fremont Tribune All-Area pick Mackenzie Peitzmeier, but plenty of talent returns.
"We've got a group of girls that are pretty good on the offensive and defensive ends and we're a pretty athletic team," Pribnow said. "They are getting stuff down quick. It looks like we have a team that is coming off a state volleyball championship that is pretty hungry for a state basketball championship."
Seniors Haley Kempf and Allison Dieckmann are returning starters.
The 5-foot-9 Kempf average 12 points and 4.7 rebounds as a junior. She played well in big games for the Lady Knights and, like Dieckmann, was a starter of the volleyball squad.
"Over the course of the summer, she has looked to take games over," Pribnow said about Kempf. "She got to the rim and helped to get other people open. She could have a phenomenal year for us and could score a ton of points. I just don't think she is very concerned about scoring, though. In talking with her and Allison, they are just concerned about wins."
Kempf also does the job on the defensive end.
"Since Day 1, Haley has probably been one of our best on-ball defenders," Pribnow said. "She can guard anyone from the point guard to the post player."
Dieckmann, a 5-5 guard, averaged 8.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a junior. Dieckmann and Kempf may see their scoring averages climb this year to make up for the loss of Peitzmeier's offensive output.
"Allison didn't look to score a whole lot last year," Pribnow said. "She was a distributor, but she has a green light and we want her to shoot from the outside."
Allie DeGroff, a 5-9 junior, averaged 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds as a reserve last year. She figures to play a more prominent role this season.
"I think Allie will get a ton of points on the interior," Pribnow said. "She has looked really good early on. She has gotten a lot stronger."
Lauren Baker, a 5-10 sophomore, averaged 3.1 points and 1.4 rebounds as a freshman. Kaia McIntyre, a 5-6 sophomore, averaged 2 points and 1.2 rebounds coming off the bench as a ninth-grader.
"Lauren and Kaia made big strides for us last year and did the same in volleyball," Pribnow said. "I look for them to have impressive basketball seasons and play with more confidence this season."
Izzy Dobbs, a 5-6 senior, didn't play last year but saw action as a sophomore.
"I think she'll have the opportunity to help us," Pribnow said. "She is a good defender and shooter and could be a difference-maker for us in a number of ways."
Junior guard Lily Bojanski (5-5), junior post Hannah Frost (5-10), sophomore guard Jadin Ostrand (5-9) and freshman Adisyn Mendlik (5-8) could also figure into the mix for the Lady Knights.
Pribnow plans on playing an up-tempo style again with hopes that Bergan's defense and speed will lead to points in the transition.
"We might even be more athletic with our starting five right now than we were a year ago," he said. "Where we might run into issues is trying to develop depth with it."
Players like DeGroff and Baker were key reserves last year, but now will likely be in the starting lineup.
"Now we have to find two or three other girls that can come in off the bench to make a difference," Pribnow said. "It will be important for girls like Lily and Hannah Frost to gain confidence in the early part of the season so we can play the way that we want to and develop some depth."
Katie Sleister, a four-year starter at point guard, graduated in May. Turnovers were a rare occurrence with her running the offense.
"We lose our floor general in Katie," Pribnow said. "I think she turned the ball over only 14 times all of last year. We need to take care of the ball and get into our sets. Right now we're kind of doing a point guard by committee."
Another concern is how well the Lady Knights can rebound. Pribnow hopes the team's overall athleticism can make up for not having a player taller than 5-10.
"We're extremely athletic, but we're not real tall," he said. "We just need to have the mentality that 'every ball is my ball.' You can't expect a teammate to go after it. We'll be undersized in the conference, but we went against Lincoln Lutheran last year and their lineup included 6-4, 6-1, 6-0, 6-0 . Every girl on their team was taller than every girl on our team. We'll to work to overcome that and just play with a lot of heart."
Bergan opens its season Friday night at Omaha Christian Academy before hosting Douglas County West on Saturday. Conference opponents Lincoln Lutheran and Lincoln Christian are on the regular-season schedule this year replacing Cedar Bluffs and Boys Town.
"A tough schedule got even tougher," Pribnow said. "But each time the girls step on the floor, they expect to win. We know the schedule will make us better for the end of the season when it counts."