There is excitement in the air for this year’s Columbia High School girls basketball team, which returns all but one of its starters from the 2017-18 season.
The Eagles went 17-11 last season under longtime head coach Scott Germain, who returns for an 11th year.
Columbia is off to a 4-1 start this season, led by senior Sophia Bonaldi and her 16 points per game.
“She’s a marquee player and Sophia has high expectations for herself,” Germain said. “She knows she’ll get the other team’s best defender each game and is trying to get others involved.”
Other returning starters for the Eagles are seniors Fae Harrell and Lexi Touchette and junior Aryn Henke.
Henke and Touchette are each averaging about eight points per game in the early going.
“Lexi is a good rebounder and has been working on her shot,” Germain said. “She’s the first one at the gym and the last one to leave.”
The challenge for this year’s squad will be filling the shoes of graduating senior Whitney Edwards, the team’s second leading scorer and top rebounder from a year ago.
“We need players to step in there and right now we’re waiting to see who will stand out,” Germain said.
Players expected to contribute this season, according to Germain, include seniors Lindsay Wibbenmeyer and Jenna Jackson, 5-foot-10 junior Avrie Barthel, 6-foot-1 sophomore Ava Khoury and 5-foot-11 freshman Taylor Holton.
“Jenna works her tail off in practice,” Germain said. “Taylor is the most physical freshman girl we’ve had. I look for her to have an immediate impact.”
Germain has been impressed with his team’s defensive pressure so far this season.
“Our expectations night in and night out are to rely on our physical man-to-man defense,” he said.
The Cahokia Conference schedule features Breese Central, who is always tough to beat, as well as Freeburg and Wesclin.
“Every night we have to be ready in this conference,” Germain said. “It’s a long season, but if we stay healthy and play for one another, we’ll be fine.”