WATERLOO — After several strong seasons, the Marshall girls basketball team has pushed the reset button.
And there has been no drop off in performance.
The Cardinals’ reboot — led by first-year coach Alex Koeller and a starting lineup featuring freshmen Mia Morel, Anna Lutz and Laura Nickel — is off to an extremely promising start.
Morel, a 5-foot-7 point guard, scored a game-high 19 points and Marshall remained undefeated with a resounding 68-27 victory over host Waterloo in a Capitol South Conference opener Friday night.
“It’s been a great start,” Koeller said. “You can’t ask for anything better.”
Senior forward Reonna Huettner added 14 points off the bench and Lutz, a 6-0 forward, scored 13 points and blocked six shots for the Cardinals (9-0 overall, 1-0 Capitol South Conference).
Koeller was the JV coach and a varsity assistant on DeForest girls basketball coach Jerry Schwenn’s staff the previous two seasons. Koeller replaced Chris Seep at Marshall, which finished second to Wisconsin Heights in league play last season after winning four consecutive conference crowns.
“I came in open-minded,” Koeller said. “As soon as the girls stepped on the court in the first practice, I thought we had a pretty special team.
“We’ve got good young kids who can play and veterans who can lead.”
Morel, Lutz and the 5-11 Nickel already have drawn NCAA Division I interest, Koeller said.
Morel — who has drawn interest from Drake, UW-Milwaukee and Marquette — did most of her damage in the first half with 16 points as Marshall built a 40-19 lead at the break.
“I couldn’t ask for a better point guard at this point of the season,” Koeller said about Morel, who entered averaging 18.4 points and 4.8 steals per game. “Being young and being a freshman, sometimes it can be a challenge but she accepted every challenge and exceeded all expectations for me so far.”
The Cardinals then held the Pirates (5-5, 0-1) to eight points in the second half while adding 28 of their own.
“I think we have played really well together,” Morel said. “Even though the freshmen just started, we are playing really good and playing fast.
“(Koeller) does a good job coaching us and gets us to move the ball around.”
The Cardinals used a 2-2-1 full-court press to create turnovers, leading to numerous baskets in transition.
“From Day One, I have been telling the girls that we want to dictate the tempo,” Koeller said. “We want to go, go, go.
“We want to score off our defense. That is our philosophy. They have accepted it and they have run with it.”
In the half court, Marshall’s “Lancers” offense, in which Lutz takes residence in the high post, was effective against Waterloo’s zone.
The Pirates came away impressed.
“That is the best basketball team we’ve seen all year,” Waterloo coach Gabe Haberkorn said. “To match their intensity throughout the game was going to be tough.
“Alex, for his first year, is doing a really good job. He has a really talented group.”
The Pirates led 3-0 after the first 23 seconds. Then Koeller inserted a fourth freshman, Mya Andrews, after only 44 seconds when senior guard Samira Arvin couldn’t continue due to a left ankle injury.
The Cardinals responded with a 10-0 run. Junior guard Ceraya Morel sank two 3-point shots in the outburst.
The Pirates closed within 10-7 on a basket off a drive by junior Samantha Battenberg and a jumper from the corner by Brittney Limoseth, who wound up with a team-high six points.
But the Cardinals used a 26-7 run over a 9-minute span and stretched their lead to 36-14 and all but settled matters.
“We didn’t take care of the ball well and things just started to roll — definitely not the way we wanted them to,” Haberkorn said.
Marshall 40 28 — 68
Waterloo 19 8 — 27
MARSHALL — Huettner 7 0-0 14, C. Morel 3 1-2 9, Held 1 2-4 4, M. Morel 9 1-2 19, Lutz 6 1-2 13, K. Andrews 1 0-0 2, M. Andrews 1 1-1 3, Nickel 2 0-0 4. Totals 28 6-13 68.
WATERLOO — Filter 1 0-0 2, Limoseth 2 2-2 6, Battenberg 2 1-2 5, Powers 0 2-5 2, Kuhl 1 0-0 2, Renforth 1 2-4 4, Wolff 0 1-2 1, Caraballo 2 1-1 5. Totals 9 9-18 27.
3-point goals — MAR 2 (Morel 2), W 0. Total fouls — MAR 19, W 12.