It didn’t take the Northwest girls basketball team much time to adjust to its new head coach.
Which is a good thing, because the Vikings didn’t have too much time to get into basketball mode.
Michael Herzberg takes over for Troy Glock, and he inherits a team that returns three starters and a total of eight varsity players from last year’s Class B state tournament qualifier.
A familiarity between Herzberg and the players helped the team hit the ground running.
Herzberg, a former Aurora boys basketball coach who is now the principal at St. Libory, served as a volunteer assistant coach for Glock during last year’s 15-6 campaign.
“I helped out at practices two days a week and went to 65 or 70 percent of the games,” Herzberg said. “So the transition (to head coach) has been smooth. I’m continuing a lot of the things they did with coach Glock. I want to build on the success he had with the program.
“It makes it easy that I already knew (assistant) coach (Jess) Topil and (assistant) coach (Denise) Coughlin. I already felt very comfortable working with them.”
With most of the Vikings also part of the Class B state championship volleyball team, it was a quick turnaround between seasons with only 20 days between winning that title and the basketball season opener.
“We gave them the first two days off after winning the state championship to let them recuperate,” Herzberg said. “Since then, they’ve been working hard and showed that they understand the importance of teammates.”
Northwest returns all three starting guards. Junior McKenzie Brown averaged 18.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists last season. Senior Kaley Werner added 6.7 points and junior Katie Placke had 6.5 points.
“Those three guards gained valuable experience last year,” Herzberg said. “Their success this fall (in volleyball) should only help their confidence.
“They all have special strengths, and they work well together.”
Inside is a different story when it comes to experience.
Northwest graduated Emily Jones and Michaela Schimmer, who combined for 21.1 points and 12.4 rebounds per game. The Vikings only lost 2.7 more points and 3.7 rebounds to graduation.
“Losing Emily and Michaela is a big hole to fill,” Herzberg said. “But I think Kennadi Keezer and Morgan Westphal will help fill those holes. They will be valuable additions.”
Keezer (Grand Island Senior High) and Westphal (Scottsbluff) are two of three transfers who will give the Vikings an added boost.
The other is junior guard Erin Sorahan, a transfer from Grand Island Central Catholic.
“Erin has speed and quickness,” Herzberg said. “She’ll be a great help defensively.
“We’re going to be able to put five scorers on the floor at all times. That’s going to put a lot of pressure on other teams.”
With the returning experience and new additions, high goals would be an obvious expectation for the Vikings.
But Herzberg said the team is going to stick with the cliche of taking it one game at a time.
“You can’t look too far ahead with our schedule and our conference,” he said. “I think our conference will have three or four of the top 10 teams in the state. When you face that competition from December to March, you have to take it one game at a time.
“We’ll look at it like we want to try and get a little better each day.”
In addition to the usual challenges on its schedule, Northwest is also hosting a loaded three-day six-team holiday tournament at the end of December.
That tournament will also include Seward (the four-time defending Class B state champions riding a 101-game win streak), Beatrice (the team that beat Northwest in the first round of last season’s state tournament and finished runner-up), Holdrege (the team that beat Northwest in last season’s district championship) and Minden (last season’s Class C-1 runner-up).
“It’s going to be a good challenge,” Herzberg said. “We’ll all be in the same boat coming off a five-day break (with the state moratorium) and playing three games in three days. It’ll be nice to play on our own court. But that’s just one 72-hour span of our season.
“We’re breaking our season down into three stretches. We have our December start, our January middle, and then I hope we come together in February and sprint to the finish. We’ll try to work hard and be proud of what we accomplish.”