Nicolet girls basketball coach Corey Wolf knows what it's like to win a conference championship and would like to do it again.
Germantown's Matt Stuve is in his first year coaching and thinks his veteran Warhawks have a shot at stealing the North Shore crown (which would be a first-ever for the school) from the Knights' grasp.
But do the two of them have enough of what it takes to defeat a man who's willing to where kilts and use a bagpipe as a motivational tool?
Nicolet and Germantown have been the most impressive in the early going of the nonconference portion of the season. League play began this past weekend.
Nicolet: talented lineup
Despite a withering nonleague schedule, Nicolet has started 2-1, with its only loss to three-time Division I state champ Milwaukee Vincent, while the fast-rising Germantown team has roared out to a 4-0 start, including good wins over Hartford and Kettle Moraine Lutheran.
Everybody knows Nicolet's story, the youthful, highly-talented group led by silky-smooth and steely tough-to-the-core 6-0 junior guard Ashley Green. They have height (internationally experienced 6-5 center Alex Cohen), speed (lightning-quick point guard Courtney Smith) and perimeter shooting (sophomore guard Britney Fair, among others).
"They could be among the five or six best teams in the state," said Bay coach Greg Capper.
But what the Knights don't have is depth. There are still only 10 players on the roster, many of whom helped Nicolet to rally for a share of the NSC title with Division 2 state champ Grafton.
Germantown gunning for title
Meanwhile, Germantown is coming off an injury-limited season, that saw both their point guard (Melissa Klemm) and power forward (all-suburban choice Eliza Wortman) go down for large chunks of the campaign.
Now both are healthy and are teaming with deadly outside shooter Rachel Hoft (six three-pointers in one recent win) to give the Warhawks an air of legitimacy.
"Everyone can score, that's what makes it so much fun," said Hoft. "We have a lot of goals this season."
Grafton's motivational expert
These two look to be the best of what could be a somewhat off year in terms of overall depth for the conference (Cedarburg and Milwaukee Lutheran have both started 0-2 and Port is 1-2), but almost every coach contacted said that, it would be foolish to look past graduation-decimated Grafton this season.
Despite the leave-taking of all-stater Sarah Eichler and others, the NSC co-champion Blackhawks (2-0) have buried both Green Bay West and Bay View in opening contests.
Which brings us to the man with the determination, intensity and dress of a proper Scotsman.
Veteran Grafton coach Bob Maronde is a master motivator urging his players to "seize the day" and have a certain joie de vive (joy of life). He has even been known to waltz into practice after a tough loss playing the bagpipes to loosen up his team.
They overcame devastating NSC losses to Homestead and Nicolet last year and did the job in the state run as role players became stars and Eichler elevated her game beyond what was thought possible.
So, would it be wise to bet against a man in a kilt?
Wait and find out.
Meanwhile other teams have other goals.
New faces at Homestead
Homestead (1-1) itself has had to overcome major graduation losses after a regional championship last season and it also has a new coach in Matt Heuser. The Highlanders are smaller (only one player 5-10) and younger (five seniors, only a handful with serious experience) than most conference foes. Look for junior forward Siena Mitman and senior guard Megan Geschke to lead the way this winter.
"We have to realize that success doesn't graduate," Heuser said.
Blue Dukes have veterans
Down the road at Whitefish Bay, the Blue Dukes (1-1) will try to parlay the experience of 10 returning letter-winners including four starters into a successful winter.
Forwards Maggie Rice, Alexa Herasimchuk and Jessie Switzer will look to carry the load offensively while Lydia Kaminsky handles the point.
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