Having athletes on a team is the goal for coaches in any sport and sometimes, that means having two-sport athletes. Sometimes however, having players that double up in consecutive sports seasons could also have an adverse effect of affecting a team's chemistry, especially when that piece is as hug a cog as Lake Region State College team leader Maara Nelson, who is now with Valley City State.
This year, the Royals have been blessed to not have any dual sport players which head coach Danny Mertens sees as a great caveat for the 2019-20 season.
"It helps a ton," Mertens began. "We have more plays in, we're more advanced in everything we're doing here today than we were last year at this time. It's hard to play two sports. A kid misses for a volleyball match or whatever it is they miss, it's tough. It's tough with the cohesiveness of a team. You don't click right away until they start hanging each other a lot so you just don't have that."
And it is that togetherness that Mertens will be betting on this season as the Royals, who were a freshman laden team last season, return a sophomore centric one with six players from last year's team that finished 19-13.
"Last season, it was a typical freshman dominated team. All of those things that typically happened to a group of young kids, it happened to us. I hope that's the difference between this year and last year," Mertens said.
Among those returning is former North Star standout sophomore Stephanie Miller, who this past summer participated in the JUCO All-Star game held in Atlanta. Miller averaged 10.6 points per game, 2.3 assists and three rebounds per. She also had 35 steals.
"Steph has had a wonderful summer," Mertens said.
Post player Jadyn Pollert, who started 30 games last season for the Royals averaged nearly six rebounds per games and had 14 blocks. Telesia Manumaleuga at the point guard position, returning team leader in scoring Jordyn Worley (Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich), guard Hailey Hewitt and forward Makaila Sione.
"All of them are great leaders at practice," said Mertens about his sophomores.
"There's 13 kids there that can play. This is the deepest we've been and they all mesh real well," Mertens said.
Mertens will challenge his team with a schedule that includes D-III No. 3 Northland and No. 2 South Plain College. It begins next Friday at Four Bears Casino and Event Center with the Pre Mon-Dak Tournament.