Mindy Stewart issues directives to girls basketball players during practice at Westosha Central (Jason Arndt/The Report).

New coach to lead Westosha girls

By Jason Arndt

A new year, and a new coach for Westosha Central High School girls basketball, which hopes to start a new tradition under Mindy Stewart.

Stewart comes with playing experience, notably at point guard, where she steered offenses at Jefferson High School, Loyola University-Chicago and University of Indiana-South Bend.

Stewart, the third head coach in three seasons, believes the tradition has started at Salem Grade School, where she and her husband, John, have built a foundation for the future of Lady Falcons’ basketball.

“John and I have started building a program at Salem Grade School for the past five and now we get to have these girls enter our program,” said Stewart, who served as an assistant under one-year coach Ben Michelau last season when the team finished 4-19 (2-12 Southern Lakes Conference).

“We have a saying, ‘It’s not just about basketball, it’s a lifestyle.'” Stewart said. “We want our girls and their families to learn the Falcon way.”

The Falcon way, she said, consists of a strong work ethic, maintaining expectations and supporting one another, regardless of outcome.

As Stewart waits for younger Lady Falcons to prosper, she looks to five returning letter-winners and five newcomers to offset the loss of eight graduates, including Southern Lakes Conference honorable mention Lindsey Kimpler and four-year letter-winner Anna Leigh Niles.

Stephanie Dopuch, a 5-foot-8 senior, expects to lead the squad of returners.

Last year, Dopuch tabulated 6.1 points per game, second on the team to Kimpler.

“Stephanie Dopuch is going to be a stand out player for us this year and take over the lead at the point,” said Stewart, crediting Dopuch’s work ethic. “I feel like she brings so much to the table as a point guard.”

Meghan McNealy is another senior who could see more playing time.

While McNealy showed her shooting skills, marked by a contest against Elkhorn where she hit five 3-pointers last season, Stewart believes the senior could offer defensive support.

The other three seniors, 5-10 Siera Sieberth, 5-9 Shannen Griffiths, and 5-7 Brianna Reid will shore up the front court and have shown the willingness to lead.

Sieberth finished third in scoring last season with 5.8 points per game.

“They are taking on leadership roles and are ready to make their senior season the best,” said Stewart.

The five seniors are joined by five juniors new to the team, which include 5-3 Sara Backus, who missed most of last season due to a knee injury.

“We are really looking for her to handle the ball and be a leader on the court,” Stewart.

The other four newcomers are Abby Jones (5-3), Marie Tyree (5-8), Shay Mulloy (5-7) and Amy Degner (5-10).

Noting the loss of eight seniors, Stewart is relying on the five juniors to produce quality minutes, which they did on junior varsity last year.

“We are going to need them to step up and fill the void of our eight seniors that graduated,” she said.

As a team, however, Stewart placed a stronger emphasis on aggressive defense, including protecting the perimeter and cutting down on opponents fast break opportunities.

Stewart believes Union Grove, Badger and Wilmot pose the biggest challenges in her first SLC season, but has not counted anyone out.

“We are going to work hard and hopefully we can surprise a few teams in our conference with our improvements,” Stewart said.


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