The way the 2012-13 campaign went for the Whitnall girls basketball team, head coach Keith Larson and his players must have felt like they actually played three seasons.
They started out 7-1, including 5-0 in the Woodland Conference, but then slumped to a 1-6 mid-season stretch, largely due to an inordinate number of injuries and illnesses.
The Falcons then started getting healthy again and put together an eight-game winning string before falling 59-44 to South Milwaukee in a WIAA Division 2 regional contest.
That all added up to a 16-8 overall mark and a 12-6 record in the Woodland, good for second place behind South Milwaukee in the Eastern Division.
"We had the slump in the middle as the injuries caught up with us," Larson said, "but then we started winning again. We certainly had some streaks both ways, but we had a strong finish."
Because of all the adversity his team faced and overcame, Larson said the year was ultimately a success.
"All in all, it was satisfying, when you look at what we encountered," he said. "This is a credit to the girls. They really hung in there, and different girls stepped up at different times."
Senior guard Ashley Markowiak averaged 16.4 points this season en route to being named the player of the year in the Woodland East. Markowiak also averaged 4.6 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 1.7 assists.
Also receiving first-team all-division honors was senior forward Rachael Shulta, who especially played well at the end of the season, averaging about 17 points during the eight-game winning streak. Shulta averaged 2.4 steals, 2.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds and led the division in free throw shooting at 77 percent.
Other key players included senior forward Jackie Gruszka and senior guard Lizzy Menden.
The Falcons lose six seniors in Shulta, Markowiak, Gruszka, Menden, guard Gabrielle Weis and forward Natali Jankovic but return post players Krista and Kendall Stribling as well as forward Ann Marie Bay, who missed virtually the entire season with injury.
"We have some girls coming back who played good minutes on the varsity," Larson said. "This group now needs to take it to the next level."
The area's other three teams all struggled through this season as they continue their rebuilding processes.
West Allis Hale
The Huskies made some strides in their first year with head coach George Sotiros.
They were more competitive throughout the season, finishing 5-18 and 3-11 in the Greater Metro Conference.
Their top player was junior center Sarah Mueller at just under eight points per game. Mueller also pulled down a team-high 143 rebounds and provided crucial leadership both on and off the floor, Sotiros said.
Hale loses seniors Rachel Seefeldt, Courtney Westhause, Rachelle Candelent, Jenny Jender, Kristen Folger, Katie Liban and Rachel Milani.
The struggles continued for the Hustlin' Hawks, as they wound up 4-19 overall and 3-15 in the Woodland Conference.
As the season progressed, junior post Mallory Klezcka emerged as their most consistent scorer. Major contributions were also made by sophomore point guard Dana Schwab, junior guard Lauren Bullock, sophomore guard Tuyet Nguyen and sophomore forward Madison Kohl, among others.
The Hawks lose only two seniors: guard Tabitha Kosmoski and forward Caitlin Acker.
West Allis Central
After losing standouts such as Mehryn Kraker in the past few seasons, the Bulldogs started with basically an all-new team under first-year head coach Dena Smith.
They wound up 3-21 and 0-14 in the GMC.
Playing lead roles were sophomore forward Bria Brown, sophomore guard Ashley Alvarado and junior forward Rachel Sura, among others.
They have just one senior in forward Wendy Watkinson.
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