Last season didn’t exactly end the way Monarch girls basketball had hoped, but the Coyotes are taking it in stride as they enter a new year.
If anything, the 2021 season taught the Coyotes a lesson in triumph and trial as they won the Front Range League before being forced to quarantine for their last three matchups of the regular season. That only gave them two days to practice together before their Class 5A state tournament contest against Mountain Vista, who defeated them with a 54-50 score in the first round.
“I go back and I watch the film of that game and I see we missed five or six layups in the first quarter that we would never miss, and you could just tell we were rusty or nervous, or both,” head coach Mike Blakely said. “I think if we’d played through our schedule, that wouldn’t have happened and it would have given us a different outcome.”
That experience, coupled with their strong play through the Front Range League, gives the ladies a unique perspective as they begin their 2021-22 schedule. Monarch returns just three varsity players, all juniors, but their impact on the court cannot be understated. Guard Natalie Guanella led the entire FRL in scoring average with 16.5 points per game as forwards Amelia Rosin (7.7 ppg, 7.5 rebounds per game) and Arezo Safi (6.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) bring back strength in the post.
Guanella had a bit of a breakout year after averaging 9.1 ppg as a freshman.
“I think the biggest thing that changed was just my confidence in my game and also in Blakely as a coach and just the program. I knew there were people around me that would support me,” she said. “I put a lot of work in on the offseason but I think I started to step up and I realized that the seniors that graduated when I was a freshman, they had a lot of leadership.”
As the new year on the court begins to gear up, Monarch looks forward to an extra height advantage that will certainly benefit it close to the basket. The Coyotes will have four ladies that stand six feet or taller on their roster.
Rosin believes the varsity newcomers will bring a lot of skill to a team that already has three strong junior captains.
“I think the height is very helpful, especially if we play against some teams that are shorter than us, then we can really use that to our advantage to help us score,” Rosin said. “Our younger players are definitely really talented and they bring a lot of stuff to the game. This new team is definitely going to be really fun to play with.”
Blakely agrees with that assessment as he sees six or seven threats in practice already. After all, the Coyotes can’t make it too easy on their Front Range League foes. They began their 2021-22 campaign on Wednesday night against Cherokee Trail in a neutral location.
“I’m super confident. I think we can definitely get league champions again,” Safi said. “We have a lot of skill on this team, so I’m excited.”
Cream of the crop: 2021 BoCoPreps.com all-region team
First Team (Name, 2020-21 class, school)
Natalie Guanella, So., Monarch; Grace Moyers, Jr., Erie; Alyssa Wells, Sr., Holy Family; Tyler Whitlock, Sr., Holy Family; Courtney Wristen. Sr., Broomfield.
Anna Hefner, Sr., Erie; Abbie Gillach, Sr., Boulder; Deb Altshuler, Jr., Erie; Edie Morrow, Jr., Mead; Laura Gensert, So., Centaurus.
Cecilia Aanerud, Sr., Holy Family; Ehreem Barila, Sr., Twin Peaks; Marissa Bartels, Sr., Silver Creek; Ella Bartsch, Jr., Boulder; Annabelle Biggar, So., Dawson; Charlotte Brennan, So., Mead; Christine D’Epagnier, So., Longmont; Ali Davis, Jr., Frederick; Makena Englund, Sr., Fairview; Genevieve Gudino, Sr., Erie; Kyra Haan, So., Mead; Frances Hilliard, Sr., Shining Mountain; Daniella Hren, Sr., Holy Family; Chelin Isaacson, Sr., Monarch; Olivia Jabari, Sr., Shining Mountain; Westbrook Jensen, Jr., Legacy; Avery Joy, Sr., Lyons; Mary Maher, Sr., Mead; Megan Majeres, So., Frederick; Sophia Matarrese, Jr., Shining Mountain; Julia Mischke, Sr., Centaurus; Charlee Neb, Jr., Skyline; Jordan Neely, Jr., Jefferson Academy; Kailey Page, Jr., Fairview; Savannah Pohl, Fr., Longmont; Mary Reilly, Jr., Peak to Peak; Emma Rich, Sr., Broomfield; Elizabeth Rooks, Jr., Prospect Ridge; Amelia Rosin, So., Monarch; Arezo Safi, So., Monarch; Dylan Sanders, Sr., Holy Family; Jessica Schneider, Jr., Longmont Christian; Savanna Staff, So., Frederick; Jacklyn Stephenson, Jr., Mead; Mattie Stevens, Jr., Peak to Peak; Maddy Timms, Sr., Dawson; Carly Toothaker, Jr., Niwot; Taylor Vandenburg, Sr., Longmont Christian; Hailey Ventura, Sr., Broomfield; Kalea Zeender, Jr., Shining Mountain.