West Allis - The head coach is new and so are many of the players on this season's West Allis Central girls basketball team.
The coach, however, will be able to draw upon a strong background of success.
Dena Smith coached the varsity team for eight seasons at Shell Lake and directed the Jefferson varsity for another eight years, winning the WIAA Division 2 state championship in 2005.
She left coaching two years ago to concentrate on earning her master's degree but now is back on the bench to take over from Trudy Wahlen, who led the Bulldogs to an 8-16 record last season.
Central lost several key players from that team, including leading scorer and perennial NOW Newspapers All-Suburban choice Mehryn Kraker, who is now at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Smith will now try to pick up the pieces, using her experience from her time at Shell Lake and Jefferson.
"The girls are working hard and willing to learn," Smith said. "This is all new for them, a whole new system. We want to stay as positive as possible and are looking at it as a fresh start."
Central has just one senior, 5-foot, 9-inch forward Wendy Watkinson, along with four juniors, five sophomores and one freshman.
The juniors are 5-9 guard/forward Gabby Coto-Valentin, 5-3 guard Maddie Matzelle-Zywicki, 5-3 guard Brianna Nelson and 5-10 forward Rachel Sura.
Sophomores are 5-2 guard Ashley Alvarado, 6-0 forward Bria Brown, 5-6 guard Becky Schwindt, 6-1 center Emma Somppi and 5-9 guard Tyana Turkvan. The freshman is 5-9 forward Mary Martens.
"We have players who can attack the basket and some forwards who can dribble and drive," Smith said. "Height will be a problem; our tallest girl is 6-1."
The Greater Metro Conference promises to be tough as usual, with Divine Savior Holy Angels, Menomonee Falls, Sussex Hamilton and Brookfield Central all formidable.
Central does not open until 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, at home against Wilmot Union. The first GMC contest is Dec. 7, against Hamilton in the Central field house.
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