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Friday
August 23rd, 2019

lady redksinpracticeLiberal all stater Katie Horyna (white jersey) dribbles the ball during a practice ealrier this week while, from left, Whitney Hay and Audrey Gilmore watch. The Lady Redskins finished third in Class 5A last year and will look to make a mark in 6A this season. L&T photo/Earl WattBy EARL WATT

Leader & Times

Last year’s Liberal high School Lady Redskins turned in the most wins in school history with a 23-2 record and finished third at the Class 5A State Tournament.

Only one starter, Ali Lucero, graduated, and with a host of returners, expectations are high for this year’s Lady Redskins squad.

But the Lady Redskins moved up to Class 6A for this season, and head coach Carter Kruger said this year wouldn’t simply start off where last season ended.

“It’s a unique situation for us, coming off a year as successful as we had,” Kruger said. “As a coaching staff and a team, we had to adjust that its not the same team. You have to earn everything you get, and this team had to realize that after the first week and a half. We thought we would pick up right where we left off and it would be easy., and it’s not It’s definitely a new unit.”

Filling Lucero’s shoes will be a big task for the Lady Redskins.

“She was a four-year starter and a great leader,” Kruger said. “You knew what you would get. She wasn’t vocal, but she showed up and played hard, she put the team first. She led by example. We were lost for a little bit. We weren’t practicing as hard as we could have. We missed Ali. If we weren’t practicing hard, she would say something. She would go hard, and that carried everyone else.”

Kruger will be looking to all-stater Katie Horyna to have a standout junior season after a strong sophomore campaign.

“Katie is playing as good as she ever played,” Kruger said. “She is going to have a great year. I am excited to coach her. No one works harder. She has gotten a lot better since last March. She brings energy and makes her teammates better, and that’s the biggest point of growth from last year.”

During the summer, Kruger took the team to Stillwater, Okla., to face some stiff competition.

“We had the chance to play some teams that kicked our butt,” he said. “We saw some really good competition, the kind we will see in 6A — the way they guarded and the way we responded. We spent the summer working on making those things better. I am pretty excited about that growth.”

From the freshmen C team through junior varsity and varsity, Kruger said his fourth year as head coach has seen the most depth.

“Our program as far as depth has never been better,” he said. “Our JV and C teams will be better than they’ve ever been. Varsity has a chance to hang another WAC banner. For the post-season you never know, but I think we can make another run to state. These seniors came off a five-win team as freshmen, and they put a lot of sweat equity in to get us where we are. I want to help them finish their career on a high note.

But that will mean making an immediate impact in Class 6A.

“The best team in 6A is the best in the state every single year,” Kruger said. “If you win that title you can beat anybody. We will have to be that good. We will have to show we can play at a high level, and our players have improved as the best 6A players at any school.

One of those players is Machia Mullens, a tall power post player who Kruger is expecting to have a strong junior year.

“Machia has a chance to make first team all state this year,” Kruger said. “Audrey Gilmore will be a big-time player. She is coming in to her own. Look at who has experience, that played in Topeka. I can’t be more excited about their progress. Kim (Alarcon) and Whitney (Hay) will have tremendous senior years. With Aubrey (Warden) and Reagan (watt), our depth will be key for us.”

But the Lady Redskins will have to remain hungry to be successful.

“Hopefully we bring the same energy and excitement that we have in the past,” Kruger said. “If we do, things will work out just fine.”

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