IRON RIVER—When they hit the court for their season opener at Iron Mountain Dec. 4, there will be many new girls in West Iron County’s blue varsity uniforms. But it’s not as through the Wykons are starting from scratch—Coach Mike Dallavalle thinks his mostly new crew could surprise a few people this year.
They certainly surprised Ironwood during a scrimmage just before Thanksgiving. The Wykons were active on defense and gave the Red Devils’ offense problems.
“With the youth we have on this team,” Dallavalle reported, “I thought we weren’t going to be as far along as we were last night. We have a good core coming back.”
Looking back: Last year’s Wykons finished with a 19-4 season record, 17-3 in the regular season. West Iron won its second straight district title and was finally eliminated by state semifinalist St. Ignace in the regional semis. In the West Pac Conference, WIC went 6-2.
That’s the good part. The bad part is that graduation cut a heavy swath, and Dallavalle somehow has to find replacements for Jaclyn Waara, Joanna Pellizzer and Desi Rasmussen, girls who started for three and four years.
Senior Kylee Erickson is the only returning starter this winter, but seniors Emilie Christensen and Mallory Tomasoski and junior Megan Miatech all played key minutes last season. They will play bigger roles now.
“Kylee’s going to be a focus for a lot of defenses,” said Dallavalle. “She’s going to have to be a leader, like she always has been, and find the open person. And these girls have to realize they can’t just look to one person to do everything.
“That’s what last year’s team was very good at doing. There wasn’t any one person you could shut down and turn the whole team off.”
New faces: The sophomores who moved up from Joe Serbentas’ JV squad add speed to the team. “Defensively, I think we’re very aggressive as a group,” Dallavalle said. “Offensively, it’s going to take a little while to get these girls playing together and understanding where each other is on the floor.”
At the scrimmage, Ironwood played only zone—the Wykons hadn’t worked on zone offense yet. “For the most part, we moved the ball pretty well and took pretty good high-percentage shots.
“They’re very coachable. They work hard, and nobody complains or whines. It’s another nice group of kids, and I think if they can work together and trust each other on the court, they’re going to be more successful than we think.”
The roster: The team has three seniors (Erickson, Christensen and Tomasoski), five juniors (Miatech, Alexis Ivey, Cassilyn Pellizzer, Brittanie Barry and Ippaishaih Phillips,) and three sophomores (Alexis Golfis, Sierra Rasmussen and Sydnie Mazurek).
The team has speed, and it also has good size, with Miatech (5-9), Christensen (5-11) and Rasmussen (6-1). “We can go with a two-person set in the paint or rotate one in or rotate two and keep them fresh.”
“With a small core like that, we are expecting those girls to step and fill some of those roles. I think it’ll take a few games.”
During the scrimmage, Tomasoski and Pellizzer played well at guard, with Golfis later moving in. “She handles the ball well and attacks the basket well.”
Mazurek can swing between guard or forward, depending on what the team needs. Whatever happens, the guards need to stay out of foul trouble. “That’s going to be pretty important.”
Under the net, the big girls will see plenty of action. Miatech and Christensen were varsity subs last year—Christensen provided big minutes off the bench during the district title game with Iron Mountain. “She made a big impact in that game.” Rasmussen is new to the varsity.
Don’t forget about Pellizzer, who is 5-9 and can jump. “She has the athleticism to be an impact player for us.”
Brittanie Barry can also help down low but first has to recover from a knee injury. Alexis Ivey will help the team in the season’s second half after missing time for a code violation.
Coming up: After the IM game, the Wykons visit Calumet on Dec. 6 and then come back home for games against Norway (Dec. 10) and Houghton (Dec. 14.)