Going into the 2014-15 prep girls basketball season, Mountlake Terrace coach Zach Wilde was planning on building his team around one of the most highly-regarded players in school history. But a torn ACL suffered by senior Samantha Romanowski last summer changed everything.
Wilde and his squad tip off the new season without Romanowski on Wednesday, Dec. 3, when they host Vashon Island Pirates at 7:15 p.m. at Mountlake Terrace High School.
Instead of draining three-point shots, grabbing rebounds and jumping into passing lanes, Romanowski will spend her senior season on the bench as an assistant for Wilde, who in turn has had to alter his strategy for the upcoming year.
“We were thinking that we were going to have Sam back, that we were going to have (her) offense, but then she goes done with an injury,” Wilde said. “We lose 97 percent of our offense, over 90 percent of our rebounding and steals. A lot of our stuff was going to be focusing in on her, but now it’s going to be ‘throw it around’ and see what we can do.”
Romanowski averaged more than 18 points per game for Mountlake Terrace last season and was named to the Associated Press 3A All-State team. She helped lead the Hawks to an 18-6 record and an appearance in the 3A Girls State Basketball Championships. She has signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Denver next year.
Romanowski’s court absence this season leaves Riley Zucker as the only senior on a Hawk squad filled with underclassmen, including four freshmen. Replacing the offense that Romanowski was expected to produce will be a difficult prospect for the young Mountlake Terrace team; Wilde’s plan for team scoring starts on the defensive side of the court.
“Defensively we’re going to have to be really good in order to generate our offense,” Wilde said. “We don’t have that 30-, 35-, 40-point scorer or that person that’s going to score a lot of points, so we’re going to have to play good, solid defense and be really, really disciplined. That’s the way we’re going to win. And with a lot of younger girls – freshmen and sophomores – discipline takes time. But it will pay off.”
Zucker will provide varsity experience and will be joined on the team again this season by her younger sister, Claire, who played considerable minutes for the Hawks last year as a sophomore. Another set of sisters, Skyler and Jasmine Zenk, will see a lot of playing time for Mountlake Terrace this season.
Wilde’s goal for the team is simple: to show consistent improvement. “To get better every day – that’s all it is – and take steps,” he said. “I told them last week that if you look at our team and you look at every team in the state, it doesn’t matter what level, we have the most potential to get better that anyone else. We can grow more than anyone else in the state. And I guarantee you it will happen. If they come every day and work hard this team will mature and take bigger steps than anyone in the state.”
Playing in a newly-revamped Wesco 3A South League, Mountlake Terrace will get plenty of opportunities to be tested this year. With the addition of Lynnwood and Edmonds-Woodway to the conference, the Hawks will play home-and-away three teams that qualified for state tournaments last year: Lynnwood finished third in the 4A Girls State Championships, a tourney that E-W played in; Glacier Peak qualified for the 3A tournament.
Wilde welcomes the prospect of facing Lynnwood and E-W, both of whom have dropped to 3A for the next two seasons. “When you go through this league you’re battle-tested,” he said. “The girls can’t take a night off, otherwise you’re going to get blown out. So it’s a good thing. It might not look good on paper because we got to go play two of the best teams in the state, two teams that were at state. But at the same time it’s only going to make us better.”
A schedule heavy with home games during the first five weeks of the season might help the young Hawk squad get their bearings. In addition to their home opener on Wednesday, Mountlake Terrace hosts Lynnwood on Saturday, Dec. 6, play home games on Dec. 13, 17 and Jan. 2, and will host their own winter break tournament Dec. 26-27.
To view the entire Mountlake Terrace Hawks 2014-2015 season schedule, click https://www.wescoathletics.com/index.php?league=3&page_name=game_schedule&school=40&sport=12.
By Doug Petrowski