The Prior Lake girls basketball team is starting over in more ways than one.
Ethan Walker takes over the head coaching duties from Mike Gildley, who stepped down after last season after 10 years as coach and 132-144 overall record.
Dynamic point guard McKenna Hofschild is also gone, playing Division I basketball at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. She left after last season as the Lakers' all-time leading scorer with 2,488 points. She was a five-time letter winner, a four-year starter and a finalist last year for state's Ms. Basketball Award.
Gidley led the Lakers to the Section 2AAAA title in 2018, the program's first as a Class 4A program. Walker was an assistant coach under Gidley last year. He's also been an assistant boys varsity coach at Burnsville for five years and was an assistant coach at Duluth Denfeld for one year.
Prior Lake was favored to repeat as Section 2AAAA champions last year, but the Lakers never really got going and an ankle injury to Hofschild in the second half of the season slowed them down a little more.
Hofschild missed seven games due to injury. Prior Lake ended up 2-9 in games that Hofschild didn't start and was 1-9 when she played less than 10 minutes.
Overall, Prior Lake finished 11-17 overall last winter (6-12 in the South Suburban Conference), going 1-1 in the playoffs.
There's talent and experience back for Prior Lake this year, so don't be surprised if this team is in contention again for another section crown.
"My hopes and goals for the season is to get to the section final, and have a team that plays for each other," Walker said. "Everything else will take care of itself."
Senior guard Haidyn Pitsch is the Lakers' top scorer back. She averaged 12 points per game last year. Junior center Emily Kulstad is back to control the paint. She netted 8.6 points per game last season.
Juniors Tatum Brostrom and Kate Trachsel also return to the backcourt, while senior Ella Schnackenberg and juniors Abby Kuboushek and Chanel Kallevig return to the front court.
"You never know what the season will bring, and I am excited to work through it," Walker said. "I think we have a deep team and have great ability to play together."
Prior Lake opens the season Nov. 22 at Hudson at 7 p.m. The Lakers' first three games are on the road, including at Champlin Park Nov. 26 and at Eden Prairie Dec. 3. Both start at 7 p.m.
The Lakers' first home game is Dec. 6 versus Wayzata, while the South Suburban Conference opener is Dec. 10 at home against Eagan.