Confidence, defense helped New Ulm Cathedral girls avoid a rough season

NEW ULM – After a 0-2 start during which it gave up a combined 97 points, the 2013-14 season began to look grim for the New Ulm Cathedral girl’s basketball team.

However, the Greyhounds have managed to avoid an early season meltdown in going 7-5, having won seven of their last 10 games under first-year coach Jeremy Drexler.

“We didn’t want to lose like that anymore,” said senior guard Kelli Eckstein. “After we lost our second game, we were just done with that. We were sick of it.”

Drexler said the turnaround was spurred on once his players got used to him as their new coach. That, coupled with developing enough confidence to compete at a high level, has prevented this season from turning into a disaster.

“It was just an adjustment for them basically,” Drexler said. “But now they’re playing with the confidence that they need to win basketball games.”

The Greyhounds’ bread and butter has been their defense – they have allowed a league-best 42.6 points per game this season. In their seven wins, the Greyhounds have allowed 35.6 points per game.

“I think our defense is really good because we all do a very good job of helping each other when we need to and working it out when things aren’t quite right,” Eckstein said.

Cathedral’s only major outlier has been its two losses to No. 10 Wabasso, in which it gave up a combined 118 points.

Former coach Mary Dengerud implemented the defense-oriented demeanor. Drexler said his team’s defensive success has relied upon its continuing execution of the system that was already in place.

“A lot of teams just don’t see a matchup zone very often when we play that,” Drexler said of his team’s defensive proficiency. “But it’s also a lot of desire from the girls to want to play defense. They take pride knowing that they’re one of the better defensive teams in the conference.”

Offensively, senior Karlee Pfaff leads the team in scoring averaging 10 points per game. Pfaff has been complemented by fellow senior Kristin Mohr, who averages nine points per game.

“Karlee comes in the gym extra on her own a lot,” Drexler said. “They’ve both played varsity for a couple years, so they’re experienced and comfortable in being on the floor and knowing what their role is.”

Overall, Drexler said he likes where his team is at competitively and a few adjustments here and there should have it ready for a deep postseason run.

Cathedral will continue its season against Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Winthrop.

“We have good team chemistry,” Mohr said. “When we’re in sync and we mesh, we really get a lot of stuff done.

“We can go as far as we want to go, really.”

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