It’s been an uphill climb the last few years for the Astoria girls basketball program.

A league record of 7-3 in 2009-10 was followed by a 1-9 season in 2010-11, and 3-7 last year.

The loss of five seniors off last year’s squad – plus one transfer – doesn’t make the rebuilding job any easier for head coach Brad Dalton, entering his fourth year.

But it’s also easy to see that the future looks bright for the Lady Fishermen.

Dalton has included six freshmen on the preseason varsity roster – and while not all six will see substantial playing time at the varsity level, Astoria is building a strong foundation for the near future.

“The freshmen are a pretty strong group,” Dalton said. “They’re young, so it’s hard to tell how they will match up with the juniors and seniors on the other teams. They look like they know a lot in practice, and they’ve played some tournament ball. But maturitywise, they’re still freshmen.”

THE LEAGUE

“Seaside will be battling with Banks,” Dalton said of the race for the Cowapa crown. “I know they both think they’re going to win league this year. I’d pick those two right now as the odds-on favorites. Tillamook lost a lot of good players. Cheyenne Hahn (Cowapa League Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year) was their point guard since she was a freshman and the heart of their program.

“Yamhill-Carlton had a bunch of good freshmen, but they lost all their height, a good guard and some floor leadership.

“We’re an unknown, too,” Dalton said. “We’re athletic and I feel like we can do some good things. It will just be a learning process.”

THE PLAYERS

Replacing five key seniors is the first task for Dalton.

“Olivia (Israel) did the majority of our scoring, and Jasmine (Ward) was a solid scorer and rebounder, and a great leader. Olivia was a good leader on the court, too, so it’s going to be hard to replace the leadership.”

This year’s senior group includes 6-foot-1 post Kiera Olson, along with Julieanne Carr, Ashlyn Gohl and Nadine Englund.

“Nadine may be a surprise this year,” Dalton said. “Nadine’s leg strength, her quickness, shooting and defensive anticipation have all improved.”

The only two juniors on the varsity roster are Emma Englund and Marina Oman, who will handle the point guard duties.

The Lady Fish “have a bunch of new kids, so we’re learning how to play together,” said the coach.

The list includes Kyra Grafton, a sophomore who played a key role in helping Astoria volleyball to a second-place finish at state.

“Kyra has played before,” Dalton said. “She played club volleyball last year, so she’ll be on a learning curve. But she’s very athletic, and I’m hoping as the season progresses and she learns the system, the athleticism will come shining through.”

The rest of Dalton’s varsity crew are all freshmen.

“They’re probably all going to swing (between varsity and junior varsity), to make sure that they will get enough playing time and experience to where we can maximize their abilities, and learn as much basketball as they can.”

Amber Moore will serve as a backup point guard, while 6-foot Chloee Hunt could play a variety of roles.

“Chloee is a good rebounder,” Dalton said. “She goes to the ball and gets it, she jumps well, and has good timing and anticipation. She’s a good ball handler and has a nice outside shot.”

Hunt and Mykka Abrahams “are probably the most aggressive among that group of freshmen,” he added. “Taylor Mickle is a nice addition, too. She and Libby (DiBartolomeo) both get after it.”

Megan Bergeron is another freshman who may see time with the varsity.

“As we go through the year, hopefully their skills improve, and they see what it takes to compete at the higher level,” Dalton said. “I hate to put too much pressure on the freshmen, but we’ve got a couple who are going to be pretty tough.”

Astoria Girls Basketball

Coach: Brad Dalton, fourth year

2011-12: 10-14 (3-7 Cowapa)

Playoffs: Lost league tie-breaker to Seaside, 44-32

All-League losses: Olivia Israel

All-League returners: None

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