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Solitary junior to lead Women of Troy

North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– Coach B.J. Mayer returns only one starter from last year’s West High Women of Troy varsity basketball team, but if that worries him, as is his trademark, it doesn’t show.
Ali Tauchen, a junior, is the solitary starter back from the 23-4 squad that fell in a Class 5A State Tournament semifinal game to West Des Moines Valley last March. Three of last year’s starting five– Mikaela Morgan, Dani Craig and Grace Tafolla– were lost to graduation, while fellow junior Emily Halverson isn’t going out for basketball this season.
Tauchen, a 6’ forward, averaged 6 points per game and 4.5 rebounds last season while Morgan led West with 13.6 points per game and nearly six rebounds and was named the Mississippi Valley Conference (MVC) Valley Division Athlete of the Year. Craig averaged 11 points, Tafolla averaged 8 points and Halverson averaged 6 points per game.
Mayer returns six letter winners: Jessie Harder (5’-8”, senior guard), Rachel Saunders (5’-8”, sophomore guard), Logan Cook (6’-1” sophomore forward), Maddie Fay (5’-10”, junior guard) and Katie McGrane (5’-8” junior guard). Harder averaged 2 points, Saunders averaged 4, Cook averaged 2 points and 2 rebounds per game and Huinker averaged 2 points per game.
New to the varsity squad are three freshmen: Lauren Zacharias, Emma Koch and Cailyn Morgan; and sophomore Paige Beckner.
“I believe that our team will be fairly deep,” Mayer said, “and may be able to play 10 players. We should be fairly athletic and hope to create offense with our aggressive defense.”
On the other side of the coin, Mayer noted, the team will be very young for this campaign having lost two Division I basketball players and two others who are playing college ball. With three sophomores and possibly two freshmen playing, the coach said, “We will need kids to step up their scoring, rebounding and ball handling if we are to be competitive.”
Naturally, Mayer hopes to have the Women of Troy in the mix for the MVC title. However, his eye is on Linn-Mar, with nearly everybody back, including the dangerous Amanda Ollinger as a favorite in the league.
“I also think (Cedar Rapids) Kennedy will be very good, with Lela Sellers and should be considered a favorite, as well,” he said.
On the Mississippi side of the conference, Waterloo West and cross-town rival City High will be forces to reckon with as they each return much of last year’s lineup.
The coach also has his radar set to a wider sweep with Pleasant Valley and Davenport North showing up as solid, talented teams this season. Even farther out, Waukee, West Des Moines-Dowling Catholic, Ankeny Centennial, Southeast Polk (which West knocked out in the Class 5A quarterfinal round) and Johnston will bear watching as some of the top teams in Class 5A again this season. He also has no less than a dozen key players from the MVC and the aforementioned teams he considers the best players in the state. City High’s Ashley and Courtney Joens have Mayer’s attention, along with (Cedar Rapids) Jefferson’s Kennedy Dighton and Linn-Mar’s Ollinger.
Mayer, in his ninth year at West, was the 2014-2015 Valley Division’s Coach of the Year with a 268-135 record overall, including two years at North Iowa and seven years with Spirit Lake. The Women of Troy have given him a 141-62 record.
Coaches Brian Motley, Erika Mundt, Jesse Searls, Morgan Woods and Julie Many will assist Mayer this season.
After a Tuesday, Nov. 24, scrimmage with Marion, the season opens on Saturday, Nov. 28, at Davenport Assumption with a 3:30 p.m. tip-off. The first home game is set for Tuesday, Dec. 1, as Cedar Rapids Prairie visits West High with a 7:30 p.m. start for the varsity.