Notre Dame girls looking for a repeat performance
By Murray Gleffe
GREEN BAY – The Notre Dame Academy girls’ basketball team is coming off a magical season where it won the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 2 state championship.
“We had lots of experienced players from last year,” Notre Dame Head Coach Sara Rohde said. “We had chemistry, worked hard and were motivated since last April when everything came to a halt. The girls wanted it, and it translated on the court to a state championship. It was a unique experience playing two games in one day to win a title. The stars were all aligned.”
If the Tritons are to repeat, they’ll have to replace four key ingredients to their gold-ball run.
Sammy Opichka, Charley Apple, Georgia Gregoire and Faith Barington combined to average close to 40 points per game on the way to winning 28 games.
“Not much will change offensively and defensively,” Rohde said. “Those four kids led in different ways. It was a special class that came through Notre Dame. If anything, we might run a few more sets for some players if we see something we can exploit or take advantage of.”
The Tritons won half their games last season by 40-plus points, and the cupboard won’t be bare this year.
Notre Dame might have the best frontcourt in the conference in returning sophomore Gracie Grzesk and senior Sarah Hardwick.
Grzesk averaged double figures in scoring and shot more than 50% from the floor.
In addition, her size proved valuable on defense, as teams struggled to score against the Tritons.
Meanwhile, Hardwick returns as the senior staple that will most likely have to provide leadership to a young but talented group.
She said her favorite post-move is a “dribble-to-the-middle and drop-step-to-the-basket.”
“My goal is to get this group together early,” Hardwick said. “A big part of a program is to make sure everyone feels included. Every season I look forward to playing Kimberly and De Pere. You have to beat the best to get to the top.”
Guards Trista Fayta, Caroline Brabant and Hope Barington were three super-subs who provided a spark for Notre Dame last season.
As underclassmen, they contributed on offense but were pesky in the coveted full-court Notre Dame press.
“We have some kids who have had some injuries and limited minutes,” Rohde said. “However, they have stuck with the program and have been waiting for their time to shine on the court and contribute. They want to be here and are coachable. I’m excited to see what they can do.”
In addition, Sydney Whitehouse, Aubrey Guyette and Hannah Greisen will probably see extended minutes after playing in limited games last season.
Notre Dame’s schedule will again feature several power-house out-of-conference programs in Pewaukee, Appleton East, Kettle Moraine, Hortonville and Kimberly, in addition to the 18-game Fox River Classic Conference slate.
“We’ve talked to this group about staying in the moment,” Rohde said. “Because we won it all last year doesn’t mean you don’t work hard in a new season. There are lots of variables that go into a year. Every team is different. We have to find our own identity.”
2021-22 Notre Dame Academy girls’ basketball regular-season schedule
12/3 – Green Bay Southwest
12/9 – Ashwaubenon
12/11 – Kettle Moraine – 4:30 p.m.
12/14 – @ Sheboygan North
12/23 – @ Hortonville – 7:30 p.m.
12/28 – Strongville – 6 p.m.
1/4 – Pulaski
1/7 – @ Bay Port
1/11 – @ De Pere
1/14 – Manitowoc Lincoln
1/18 – Sheboygan South – 5:30 p.m.
1/21 – @ Green Bay Southwest
1/25 – @ Ashwaubenon
1/27 – @ Kimberly – 7:30 p.m.
1/28 – Green Bay Preble
2/1 – Sheboygan North
2/4 – Bay Port
2/8 – @ Pulaski
2/11 – @ Manitowoc Lincoln
2/15 – De Pere
2/17 – @ Sheboygan South
Sports editor’s note: All games begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.