RENSSELAER — Rensselaer Central won’t have its full complement of players when the season begins this week, but coach Wes Radtke is fine with that.
It gives other girls in his program — particularly a couple from a talented sophomore class — a chance to step into more defined roles.
“That sophomore class is deep, both talent-wise and how athletic they are,” Radtke said ahead of his team’s game with West Central Thursday night. “Many of them play varsity sports and are varsity players in those sports. They’re accustomed to the rigors it takes to be a varsity player. They know what’s expected.”
The Bombers will be without sophomore Jessie Ringen, who served as one of the Hoosier Conference’s top freshmen last year, and sophomore Morgan VanMeter. Ringen is still gimpy from an ankle sprain suffered in volleyball and VanMeter has a back injury.
Returning but not at 100 percent yet is senior Sydney VanMeter, who had knee surgery during the volleyball season. The top returning scorer and rebounder, VanMeter was expected to see limited action against West Central and Class 2A No. 2 North Judson this week.
“She’s not at a 100 percent,” Radtke said of VanMeter, who is a four-year varsity starter. “We still have a while yet with her. We’re going to continue to bring her along. But a kid who just came off a major surgery like that and to have her here practicing and participate with us is a blessing. It shows her determination and hard work. When she does get back at 100 percent and shows what she’s capable of doing, that will be good for us.”
VanMeter serves as one of four seniors on this year’s squad, with Kinzie Goodman, Lexi Healey and Hannah Redlin the others.
Rensselaer’s lineup this week is expected to include sophomores Abby Ahler and Avree Cain at center and point guard, respectively, with Healey playing one of the other guard spots. Sydney VanMeter will get the start at forward, with Goodman, Addy Koebcke or Abby Lucas in line for the fifth spot.
The Bombers took on a young West Central squad Thursday in their opener. The Trojans have just 10 players for new coach Tyson Mellon and won’t have a junior varsity team this winter.
Radtke feels the opener will give his team a chance to get its feet wet before diving into choppy waters at North Judson on Saturday night.
A favorite to win a sectional title later this year, the Jays feature one of the region’s top players in junior guard Lilly Frasure.
Judson, ranked No. 2 in the preseason Class 2A AP poll, finished 27-4 last year and reached the regional final. The Jays had four starters graduate from that team, forcing coach Chris Newbauer to build around his all-state guard.
“I get all the hype North Judson has,” Radtke said. “I get the fact that the Frasure girl is there. They lost a lot of good players, players who clogged the middle for them. I know we’ll be ready for them. I like the fact it’s a sectional opponent for us right away. We’ll get to look at them and see what adjustments we need to make later on. I’m looking at going in there to get a win, whether they’re No. 1 in 2A, No. 2 or 101 in 2A. The girls will put forth their best effort knowing that it’s not the endgame for us.”
RCHS opens the season with three road games (West Central, North Judson, Hanover Central) and won’t play its home opener until Nov. 16 against Knox. The Redskins beat the Bombers on their way to a sectional title last year, but won’t have Lindsey Simpson at point guard. Simpson is currently playing college basketball at Indiana Tech.