A promising Bemidji High girls basketball team opens its new season tonight at Crookston.
It begins the new year with the same goal in 2009, returning to the state tournament.
That goal lasted until the section semifinal last winter when Bemidji fell to Elk River 61-59 in the 8-4A tourney.
The shift from Section 8-4A to 7-3A could make the chances a bit easier.
The top foe there will be a potent Grand Rapids quintet along with Hermantown, Cloquet, Proctor and Duluth Denfeld and Central.
The first of the home and home set with Grand Rapids will be Dec. 10. Bemidji also faces Cloquet in the regular season..
The team ended 23-3 last year, tying the second best school single season win mark set in 1992 and 93 and one shy of the all time mark of 24 set in 1992.
Graduation took sizeable chunks out of that team, claiming regulars Ashley Hirt (4.8) Paige Jensen (12.0), Meg Clay pool (4.5) and Megan Larson (8.9) and reserve Erika Bauer. Those five combined for 31 points a game.
But seven letter winners are back, five of them rotation regulars, who possess size, quickness and shooting skills to carry the team a long way .
Rick Kehoe begins his fourth season as head coach with a record of 51-29 and two 20 win seasons back to back.
Zach McDermott will again be his top aide with Maggie Clauson succeeding Kim Jensen as B Team coach and Larry Dahl returning to the freshman ranks.
Leading the returning cast is junior pivot Kayla Hirt who begins her third year as the starting post with 1,054 points to her credit, 658 of them last winter, an average of 24 points per game.
She will be joined by seniors Abby Hendricks (3.1) and Kelsey Heisler (3.6) at the corners and Erika Weimann (4.2) and Megan Huseby (3.2) outside.
Selina Gilbertson and Caitlin Gangelhoff, both seniors, also lettered but played most of their season with the JV.
That team went 17-8 under Kim Jensen. Two juniors from that squad this year will be Summer Monsrud and Maren Erpelding.
But two players to watch, who could make an impact before the season is far along are freshmen Jess Yost and Kenzie Kane, a pair of six footers who combined for 629 points last winter playing with Dahl's unbeaten freshmen. Yost hit 372 and Kane 297 each breaking 20 points 10 times. Yost hit 47 in a romp past Rocori and 30 in a win over Sartell.
Rounding out the varsity cast will be senior Grace Felling, juniors Maren Erpelding and Summer Monsrud and sophomore Jenna Sagedahl.
Hirt will be flanked by Heisler and Hendricks to open tonight with Weimann and Huseby or Gangelhoff outside.
Bemidji took last year's opener here 65-47 with Hirt hitting 14 and Weimann 10 to be among four double figure scorers.
Bemidji will play its first seven games on the road before hosting Moorhead Dec. 22 in its home debut of the season.
A complete pre-season team preview will appear in Thursday's Winter Sports tab.