Red Hawk girls look to rebuild under new hoops coach

John Schmidtknecht

John Schmidtknecht had been looking for a chance to become a head high school basketball coach for awhile.

So when the head girls job opened up this year at Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau High School — where Schmidtknecht has worked as a custodian for the last five years while also coaching as an assistant in the Cochrane-Fountain City boys program — he didn’t hesitate to go for the job.

“I’ve been kind of looking for one for a few years and it just happened to be right here where I work, so it’s a good chance to take the next step,” Schmidtknecht said. “It’s a program that needs a little rebuilding, but I kind of look at it as a challenge for me and I’m excited for that challenge.”

The 2023 season opens this week for the Red Hawks. Their first game was set for Tuesday at Cochrane-Fountain City with their home opener to follow this Thursday against Altoona.

It will be another rebuilding year for G-E-T, which finished the 2022-23 season with a 4-20 record that included a 4-8 Coulee Conference run.

“Our main focus right now is be competitive. Just improve weekly, improve daily and every day take that next step,” Schmidtknecht said.

Points will be there for the taking this winter on a team that graduated its top three scorers from a year ago in Shayna Kirkey (12.6 points per game), Navaeh Becker (11 ppg) and Caydence Kokott (5.2 ppg).

Schmidtknecht mentioned the team’s four seniors as leaders this winter. Among them include players that saw significant playing team last winter, including Kaylee Hauge, Tatum Johnson and Cadence Simmons.

Halene DeJager also played big minutes for G-E-T in 2022-23, and the junior could help the Red Hawks again this year. 

“They’ll do a great job of getting everybody together, and we had a couple of juniors that are back out and we got one returning junior (DeJager) that played a lot for the team last year, and I think she’ll be a good contributor with the seniors. So I think it’ll be a good team effort,” Schmidtknecht said.

Defense will need to be strong for G-E-T as the Coulee Conference figures to be competitive once again this winter. West Salem reached the WIAA Division 3 state tournament and joined Westby (21-5) as 20-win teams a year ago.

The Red Hawks hope to stay in games as they adapt to a new coach and see expanded roles for many players.

Success will come in staying positive and growing as a team as they work to get back to a winning record, their coach said.

“I think a successful season for this group is if we can keep a high energy and just be in games throughout the whole year,” Schmidtknecht said. “I think if we can continue to keep the energy up and be a family all the way through the season and not lose anybody, that’s gonna be our main thing.”

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