NASELLE — After tight losses against the District’s elite last year, the Lady Comets bring in an athletic group of freshmen to help a big senior class try to get the team to the next level. Naselle took a halftime lead at Districts against a Taholah team loaded with talent before falling 43-37. In late January, they came within five of Columbia Adventist, losing 41-36 against a team that would got to the State tournament. Naselle finished 4-2 in Columbia Valley League play, second to 6-0 Adventist. Overall, Naselle finished 11-11 last year.
Senior Lilli Zimmerman dominates some games on the interior. Last year she went off for 23 points and 13 rebounds against Clallam Bay, scored 12 first-quarter points against the Washington School for the Deaf, and overpowered Pe Ell in an 18-point performance. She combines immense strength with post moves honed through years of basketball camps. As she sees it, her best games come when she is most assertive. “I’m talking more, calling for the ball, and I get the ball more,” she said.”
Taylor Gudmundsen, a smooth, playmaking forward, joined Zimmerman on the All-League team last year. She is the team’s top off-the-dribble creator. To coach Rose Nisbet, Gudmundsen is a positionless player. “I can put her anywhere. She can play in the post, because she has good moves down there.”
The absence of point guard Lily Harman, who also made last year’s nine-player All-League roster, could leave the Comets more reliant than ever on Gudmundsen as a creator. Harman is out for the year with an ACL tear from volleyball. On the other hand, the freshman class brings players with potential to break down the defense.
“We’ll contribute aggressiveness and speed,” guard Peyton Dalton said of the freshman group of which she is a part. “We’ve played together a long time, kind of like this year’s senior class.” The group, which includes Echo Cenci, Courtney Paul and Haley Lopez, played their eighth grade season on the high school team’s junior-varsity team.
Coach Rose Nisbet compares Dalton to Gudmundsen, saying she is under consideration for the point guard spot, as is senior Sophie Scrabeck. “[Dalton] is quick and she has great basketball knowledge. She and Taylor are much alike. Petyon has great communication skills, sees the floor well and she’s team-oriented. She can be kind of a glue player” (one who holds things together), “and with Lily gone we need that.”
“I’ve gotten a lot closer with (the seniors,” Dalton said. “Taylor has helped me with my confidence. She and Lily are good at giving critiques. They give the right input, but not harshly. They’ve been very kind.”
Cenci says of Dalton that “she’s aggressive with the ball, and she knows the plays really well.”
Dalton speaks similarly of her: “Echo is fast and aggressive, and really good on defense.”
Cenci is a 5’4” guard with track star speed (she was a top middle school sprinter last year, then joined the high school team late, making State with them.) She came into a blowout varsity game last season and got three steals right away.
“I can anticipate (on defense), and know where the pass is going,” she said. Though she is a short, fast, ball-hawking player, Cenci downplays the natural comparisons to Ellie Chapman (class of 2017). “[People] tell me I’m like her,” she said skeptically. “If I could play like her, I would.”
Senior Kenzie Glenn is a proven long-range shooter. Apart from her, they haven’t had much shooting. But Lopez has the ability to fill that hole. Gudmundsen, already a decent shooter, is becoming more of a long-range threat, Nisbet thinks.
Jackie Steenerson, a 5’9” junior, showed potential in the post last year. She and Zimmerman should give Naselle a formidable interior duo. Steenerson had something of a breakout year in volleyball and is likely entering her prime.
Senior Darian Jacot will see time at guard. Hollie Haataia got playing time late last yaer as a freshman, taking on tough defensive assignments in the paint and on the perimeter. Sophomore Kylee Tarabochia joins the team, as does Grace Hunt.