Maryville girls basketball junior guard Serena Sundell nails a three over a defender. Sundell tallied 31 points in the Spoofhounds' win over St. Pius Jan. 7 in the Hound Pound.

Maryville girls basketball is nearing the beginning of its season, and coach Quentin Albrecht is ready for his team to end this season on a better note than last season.

With a schedule that Albrecht says should challenge the girls, and the dangers of COVID-19 looming, there’s no telling how this season could go.

Returning four of their starting five, the ’Hounds will have no trouble establishing chemistry and improving on the few weaknesses from last season. If the season stays out of the grasp of the virus’ effects, the Spoofhounds should be able to put together a solid season.

Let’s start with the obvious: Serena Sundell. The senior guard has proven numerous times over her illustrious high school career that she’s the go-to player on the basketball court. Her prolific scoring and natural ability to lead are only two weapons in her seemingly vast arsenal. Since committing to play basketball at Kansas State in late March, she should feel no pressure to play for college recruiters.

I expect this to lessen the weight of having to put on a show each time she laces her sneakers up, resulting in a more relaxed and natural game. Always one of the most well-rounded players, it will be difficult to beat her at both ends of the court this season.

For every plane, there must be a co-pilot, and senior forward Emily Cassavaugh is Maryville’s co-pilot. Heading into her final year as a Spoofhound, Cassavaugh brings with her a vital mix of perimeter shooting and defensive prowess. Her height and aggressiveness on defense will be big for Maryville, as it seemed teams could go blow-for-blow with the Spoofhounds’ potent offense last season.

With her talent and experience, Cassavaugh will push her teammates to get better day in and day out, but she and Sundell can’t be the only ones improving if they want to make it to state this year.

Mirroring their senior leaders, the dynamic sophomore duo of guard Anastyn Pettlon and forward Rylee Vierthaler offer talent and vast potential.

Last season, Pettlon struggled with her body language, something Albrecht said the whole team could learn from. She was visibly frustrated when her performance wasn’t going the way she wanted, and that could be detrimental if the ’Hounds are desperate for a comeback.

However, her desire to win and continue competing makes up for small mistakes she makes on the court. Pettlon’s raw talent was a spectacle last season. Now, if she can channel it with some discipline, she could be dangerously good.

Similar to Pettlon, Vierthaler shows great promise in her future with a little discipline and some growth as a player. Although she’s pretty sound on both sides of the court, her aggressiveness led her to foul trouble in a couple games. Her hard work and determination to improve will likely lead to a successful sophomore year, especially under the wings of the seniors. Mixing Albrecht’s knowledge of her shooting ability with a slight increase in selfishness with the ball, and there’s no telling how good she could get.

No matter how talented each of these individuals are, they’re going to have to play well as a team. Chemistry-wise, they showed no sign of struggling last season. Despite each of the starters' affinity for defense, something wasn’t clicking. Slow starts seemed to plague Maryville last season and resulted in lofty comebacks that couldn’t be capped.

With the ’Hounds slated to play East Buchanan, Glenwood (Iowa), Chillicothe and St. Pius X, who gave them trouble last season, the girls have to learn how to handle not being in control of a game. Additionally, competing in different tournaments than last season increases the probability of facing different, more challenging opposition.

Albrecht said that a challenging regular season should prepare his team for the competition it’ll face at the conclusion of the regular season. They say iron sharpens iron, and if everything goes according to plan, I don’t see why Maryville girls basketball won’t be in the Final Four this season.

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