MUNISING - If there's one definite thing Munising High School girls basketball team and head coach Matt Mattson has going for them this season, it's the teams' eight returning seniors.
If you need more convincing, one of those eight seniors is Emily DesJardins, who with 13 points and eight rebounds per game last season remains as the front runner in both stats and leadership this year for the Mustangs.
"She's one of the better players in the [Upper Peninsula] if you ask me," Mattson said of DesJardins, who was an All-U.P. Class D second team pick last season.
Munising’s Emily DesJardins (24) drives past Bark River-Harris’ Megan Derusha (23) in a MHSAA Class D regional semifinal on March 8 at Kingsford. DesJardins averaged 13 points and eight rebounds last season. She is one of eight returning seniors for the Mustangs. (Iron Mountain Daily News file photo)
The Mustangs, however, do have substantial depth. Aside from some shortcomings in the height and therefore post positions, Mattson acknowledged that with a good group of seniors, three juniors and a sophomore, the team is in for a good season.
"I think the eight seniors obviously help. They know exactly what I expect and how we do things," he said. "All of them are capable of being on the court and helping us out. They'll all have to find their roles and build on those things."
Among those seniors are 5-foot-4 Katie Immel and 5-7 Megan McLaren.
"We need Megan to play well in the post for us, and I think Katie had a great summer for us so we need her to handle the ball and play some good defense," Mattson said. "DesJardins is obviously our leader, but she's not the only one on the team so we need some people to step up and help her out."
Mattson also realizes that with his tallest player rounding out at 5-7, the team must somehow compensate for its lack of height.
"We need to be able to handle the ball and handle pressure," he said. "We don't have a lot of size, so finding a post is an issue for us at times. We just need to play the cards we can on the defensive end, rebound the best we can and then protect the basketball and take good shots on offense."
And with this being only his second season with the Mustangs, Mattson feels that having defeated the first-season obstacles-while still going 6-16, the girls will have some confidence coming into the first games of the season.
With so much experience, Mattson is hoping for much more success this time around.
"We've been on the run getting used to things. We've got a season behind us and a summer of team camps and open gyms and those things," he said. "It's kind of nice to hit the trail running and get over that first season.
"Last year we were 6-16, but we had no seniors on the team. We had eight juniors, and this year those eight girls are back. So throw in three juniors and a sophomore and I would like to double our win total. That would be the a successful season for us."
In addition to a strong group of upperclassmen, Mattson said the team also has good chemistry and hard work on its side. Last season, the team had Michigan's 11th best standing academically with a combined 3.7 grade point average.
"They're a great group of girls with no chemistry problems. They're just a good bunch of kids," he said.