Soroco girls basketball hopes to thrive on depth, boys look to rebuild
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the correct spelling of head coach Leif Carlson’s name.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There’s no question what kind of basketball the Soroco girls play, since the team has historically not boasted much height.
“We use our speed to our advantage, because we’re not real tall,” Soroco girls head coach David Bruner said. “We’re working on a lot of conditioning to play the way we play.”
He said junior Kourtney Bruner, senior Hannah Hayes and sophomore Makinley Parker are some of the taller players on the team, all around 5-foot-7.
“I would have to stretch them to get over 5-8,” Bruner laughs.
Nov. 29: at Aspen, W 53-24
Nov. 30: at Meeker, W 73-59
Dec. 1: at Rangely, W 49-25
Dec. 6: at Eagle Valley, W 58-22
Dec. 7: at Mead, W 46-36
Dec. 8: at Prairie View, L 61-54
Dec. 13: vs. Battle Mountain, W 44-38
Dec. 15: at Caprock Academy, W 72-11
Dec. 21: at South Park, W 71-36
Jan. 5: vs. West Grand, W 70-24
Jan. 11: vs. De Beque, L 56-45
Jan. 18: at Hayden, W 64-25
Jan. 19: vs. North Park, W 70-39
Jan. 25: at Rangely, W 46-31
Feb. 1: vs. Hotchkiss, W 50-42
Feb. 2: vs. Paonia, W 57-24
Feb. 7: vs. Meeker, L 59-29
Feb. 8: at Plateau Valley, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 15: at Vail Christian, 4 p.m.
But the height disadvantage hasn’t stopped the Rams from being one of the fiercest basketball teams in the Class 1A/2A Western Slope League. The Soroco girls have won the league title three of the last four years, averaging 16 to 20 wins over the past seven years.
It’s no small feat for a league that boasts 13 teams.
“As a team, we came up with some goals that pretty much all across the board we have in common — win the league and win district to host the regional tournament,” senior Grace Olinger said. “And we want to make it to the state tournament.”
Taking that next step usually depends on the health of the team, Bruner said. As of right now, two girls are being evaluated for potential injuries.
The team’s success has attracted a record-setting nine freshmen to the floor this year, including Kaydence Bruner who will suit up on varsity.
The team also has six seniors, which provides the Rams with depth and a mentality that everyone needs to be ready to contend.
The Rams return their top-scorers in senior Chloe Veilleux, who averaged 15.6 points per game and made 41 3-pointers last year, and senior Kayla Wille, who averaged 8.3 points per game and made 29 3-pointers.
Sophomore Makinley Parker is expected to have an increased role on the floor after a year of experience, and Kourtney Bruner, now a two-year varsity veteran, is taking on a leadership role as a junior.
Before league play starts in January, the girls will play in the Meeker Shootout on Thursday and travel to the Steamboat Shootout tournament next week. Meeker is predicted to be a top contender for the league title this year.
“I’m hoping to get the tournament win,” Kourtney Bruner said. “Since I’ve been in high school, we haven’t won the Meeker Shootout. We should be playing Meeker. I want to get a win out of them, so they know who we are and that we’re coming after them.”
New head coach Leif Carlson is hoping to flip the script for Soroco boys basketball after going 4-16 last year, including a 1-11 record in league play.
Carlson, previously an assistant coach for the Rams, played for Soroco when he was in high school. He knows where the team’s weaknesses are and wants to address them.
“It was a neat opportunity to come back and coach at my old high school,” Carlson said. “We’ve got a lot of talented kids; it’s bringing that talent out. Grant Redmond, our 6-foot-8 center, is a phenomenal player, but we want to be more multi-dimensional than just him.”
Under Carlson, Redmond said practices have differed in not just strategy but attitude. Change might be good for a team that’s struggled to win games, and Redmond hopes to make the regional tournament his senior year.
“We’re more excited where we are going,” Redmond said. “We’re looking forward to practice and improving ourselves.”
Dec. 6: at Meeker Tournament
Dec. 14: at Vail Mountain, 4 p.m.
Dec. 15: at Caprock Academy, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 21: at South Park, 4 p.m.
Jan. 5: vs. West Grand, 4 p.m.
Jan. 11: vs. De Beque, 7 p.m.
Jan. 18: at Hayden, 8:30 p.m.
Jan. 19: vs. North Park, TBA
Jan. 25: at Rangely, 7 p.m.
Feb. 1: vs. Hotchkiss, TBA
Feb. 2: vs. Paonia, 4 p.m.
Feb. 7: vs. Meeker, 7 p.m.
Feb. 8: at Plateau Valley, 7 p.m.
Feb. 15: at Vail Christian, 8:30 p.m.
Redmond led the team last year with 16 points per game, and next-best was Kendall Hood, who graduated averaging seven points per game.
On defense, Carlson hopes to get his team on the same page.
“We’ve struggled in years past just working as a team in order to stop all penetration,” Carlson said. “This year, it’s all about stopping penetration and contesting an open look.”
The team boasts nine players on its varsity squad, three of which are seniors.
The Rams’ last winning season was in 2015-16, when they went 15-5 and made the district tournament.
Soroco opens preseason play Thursday, Dec. 6 at the Meeker Shootout.
To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email lvann@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports.
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