Jayettes filling big shoes in quest for further improvement

Sean Cordy
Correspondent
Perry girls basketball is ready to kick off the 2020-21 season.

The Jayettes made a five-win leap last season to a 6-16 record. Now this season, Perry looks to keep improving in more ways as the team loses their springboard that pushed the team forward in the 2019-20 season. That has head coach Skylar Wolf looking for more girls to step up and reach the team's goal for the season.

"Be the best at getting better"

Wolf isn't disillusioned about the situation Perry walks into this year, particularly about the factors outside of the team's control. If the Raccoon River Conference was already a tough draw last year with Ballard, it's even more difficult with the addition of North Polk and Gilbert. That makes three 2020 state qualifiers.

"Hopefully we can level the playing field a bit more," Wolf said. "So there are six games on our schedule right now that are going to be against high quality, proven teams."

Those teams exist as aspirations for Perry. They've already hit peak performance and been battle-tested, so there's not much room for them to improve. That's where the Jayettes hope to win, on the practice court.

"Our main goal is we just want to get better. We want to be the best at getting better," Wolf said. "We don't have to be the best in the conference. We don't have to be the best in the state, but I want us getting better every day. Getting one percent better every day. That's the ultimate goal."

Finding new leaders

There is plenty of opportunity for the Jayettes to make those improvements among the whole roster as it will take everyone's help to replace all-conference guard Molly Lutmer. 

A top-10 scorer in Class 4A last season, Lutmer was responsible for 44 percent of Perry's production. Such a generational talent isn't replaced by just one player. Wolf said replacing Lutmer will be a "team effort" for the Jayettes.

"Losing a player like Molly's always gonna leave you with a big gap offensively, defensively. And a senior like that, you lose the senior leadership," Wolf said. "I think we'll need to be a bit more aggressive on the defensive side of things knowing that our offense is taking a hit."

That group effort starts with sophomore guard Lydia Olejniczak, the team's top returning scorer with 10 points per game. Her all-conference freshman campaign was "only the beginning," Wolf said. The sophomore is also the No. 2 returning rebounder in the conference with 6.6 boards per game. 

Supporting cast steps into spotlight

Olejniczak won't be alone in the quest to minimize the loss of the team's leading scorer for the past three seasons. Perry's in a rare position in which the team adds a veteran, impact player to the roster that was absent last year.

After making key contributions in her sophomore year, Quinn Whiton missed all of her junior season after suffering a volleyball injury. Now she returns to the court with hopes to make an immediate impact, particularly on defense with quick hands.

"Everybody's excited to have her back. I know she's excited after taking the year off. Coming to all the practices last year and seeing what could have been is always frustrating as an athlete," Wolf said.

Junior Jayna Kenney returns as another key cog with 6.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Wolf said he hopes Kenney can step into the point guard role more now in Lutmer's absence.

Kennedy Tunink and Michelle Tobar look to be two of the other primary offensive pieces after playing supporting roles last year. Wolf said the rest of the lineup will largely be based on which matchups require more size or speed. Phoebe Stewart and Lanie Fish come in as the team's two centers for some size down low. 

Jayna Kenney in action last season.