NORMAN — After a run to the state tournament a year ago, expectations are high for the Norman North girls. The Timberwolves are ranked fourth in the state and return everyone from a year ago. Tonight’s opening-night game is a showdown with ninth-ranked Edmond Memorial, a team that emerged as a bitter rival to North a season ago as the two teams met four times.
But the injury bug has taken some luster off the matchup. Seniors Bri Kuestersteffen and Julian Mougell have both missed time in the last month with concussions, while junior Paige Canty sprained her ankle and sophomore Alexa Scott is battling illness. Mougell and Canty are both considered gametime decisions for tonight’s 6:15 p.m. opener.
While it may not be an ideal start for the Timberwolves, there have been some benefits, namely increased playing time for the rest of the roster. Coach Jeff Blough said that one of the Timberwolves’ weaknesses a year ago was a tendency to stand around too much while Kuestersteffen and junior Haley Woodard would shoot the ball and penetrate the lane. With her out of the lineup, the rest of the team was forced to become more active, a development that Blough expects will pay off down the road.
“It’s helped us in that sense,” he said. “At times we’ve been able to go small with Haley playing the five. It’s really helped some of the other girls like Aspen Knight and Sarah Tomlinson to step up and become more comfortable.”
Tigers’ strength lies in chemistry: Coach Matt Thornton is entering his second year at the helm at Norman High, and he’s looking forward to having something that he said is rare in teams.
“This team has really good chemistry, and there’s no jealousy,” he said. “That’s not always something you get. I think kids are buying in and understand what we’re trying to teach. They play really well together.”