Steve Wiktorowski will take over the Bishop Dwenger program with a lengthy past coaching, most recently on the high school level in 2016 with Wawasee. His three year stint with the Warriors came 12 years after he spent seven coaching Prairie Heights. But he brings more than that with 17 years coaching at the college level as well.
“I think the biggest thing is I was looking for an opportunity to coach at a Catholic school and combined that with I watched some film and I thought there was some ability coming back,” Wiktorowski said. “Some talent to work with and a good catholic school was probably the biggest attraction.”
Unlike most new coaches at a high school level, Wiktorowski certainly doesn’t acquire a bare cupboard. The Saints went 11-10 last season under Cleveland Inge, but graduated just one player and lost another, Emma Lyons, who decided to focus on volleyball this season.
At the forefront will be Molly Ream (Top 50 Girls Hoops #15), who should be the most significant contributor for the third straight season before heading off to Olivet Nazarene. Ream is a quality ball handler who can score as well as she passes. She and Carissa Wiegman (Top 50 Girls hoops #41) return as seniors and the top two scorers for the Saints a year ago. Wiktorowski is expecting the two of them to shoulder a lot of the load after being impressed by Wiegman’s versatility. Ream averaged 9.7 points while Wiegman scored 6.7 points per contest.
“I think have some good ball handlers coming up. One of the things I like about this team is I think we are pretty well rounded. We have some depth where a lot of people can contribute,” Wiktorowski said. “We also have a lot of players who are versatile and can play a lot of different positions.”
Maggie Cheever (Top 50 Girls Hoops #49) is back as a stronger and more consistent junior to anchor the inside after leading the Saints with 5.9 rebounds last year; she also contributed 6.4 points per game. Wiegman will also be a top interior contributor and she flats between positions. Kayliana Hammel (pictured) will add some length as a returning forward.
Offsetting the post play with Wiktorowski’s plan for balance. With the loss of Lyons, more players will have to step up with Ream on the perimeter to knock down some shots and spread the floor. Wiktorowski says the Brianna Yager is much improved as a competitive combo guard that had a good summer and can add to their shooting prowess. Lexi Linder, a sophomore, will see time as a pass first point guard. Claire Frazier, Rachel McCarthy and Cecilia Garrett will also return as contributors.
Last season, the Saints saw a heavily deep rotation with all those players mentioned and then some. Seven players saw action in all 21 games and all 13 players on the varsity roster played in at least 19 games even if it was only for a handful of minutes. While his depth is a strength, Wiktorowski does expect some trimming to the rotation.
“I think the thing that will happen is we will probably go with a little smaller regular unit and that is going to maybe change from game to game,” Wiktorowski said. “In really competitive games, I’ve told the girls we are probably going to go with a more regular eight to nine rotation.”
The Saints will be searching for their first Sectional title since 1999 despite eight winning seasons since then.
Nobody returns as many players as the Saints. This team is game tested with many players taking their third turn contributing on the varsity level. Molly Ream is a top area guard and you have to expect Bishop Dwenger to continue to play at a solid level. They are consistent, if nothing else.
“I have just been extremely pleased. They have been very open minded to trying a new system and just like anytime you put in a new system, it takes a while,” Wiktorowski said. “It is not because of a lack of effort or a lack of acceptance so I have been really happy with that.”
WHY NOT HIGHER?
This team finished just above .500 a year ago and return the exact same roster except with a coach that we don’t know how they click with just yet. There is plenty of faith in the Saints, but not enough to place them higher than the spot they hovered around in last season’s power poll.
DEC. 6 AT NORTHROP
The Saints will be a handful of games into their season before they make the visit to the Bruins. With 3-8 in the conference looking like it may mirror last season’s “any team on any night” principle, this is a critical early season conference game with teams jockeying for position. It will also be a big test of the Saints’ depth considering how deep Northrop is also expected to be.
PLAYER TO WATCH
LEXI LINDER, SOPHOMORE, GUARD
Linder played about 10 minutes a game last year as a freshman, but her role will increase this season for two main reasons. One, replacing Lyons’ minutes will be a change and Linder being able to run the point will clear some pressure away from Ream,
A good court vision leads Linder, who had five assist games against both Wayne and South Side last season.