Sports

Girls basketball: Hulet brings new look to South Kitsap hoops

Senior Jackie Steiger, who has signed with Western Oregon University, is one of two starters returning from last season’s state team. - Kenny Gatlin photo
Senior Jackie Steiger, who has signed with Western Oregon University, is one of two starters returning from last season’s state team.
— image credit: Kenny Gatlin photo

South Kitsap is coming off its most successful season in a decade, but there is little resemblance between this season’s team and recent years.

That is because the Wolves, who had a 20-6 record and advanced to the second round of the Class 4A state tournament, have a new coach in Mike Hulett and three new starters.

“We’ve carried nothing over from last year,” Hulet said. “We want to implement our program — and it’s a little different.”

He said that is not meant in a disrespectful manner — Hulet was an assistant under former coach Mark Lutzenhiser — but his coaching staff prefers “to play uptempo and get up and after it.”

Hulet’s assistants are new to the program but not the school. Chris Olsen preceded John Callaghan as South’s boys basketball coach, while Tami Lester-Dame formerly guided the boys swim team.

Despite graduating starters in guards Kelsey Callaghan, who now plays at Montana Western, and Angela Romonsky and forward Dana Goularte, Hulet returns some talent to aid the transition to his system.

Seniors Jackie Steiger, who signed with Western Oregon University, where Goularte now plays, and Taylor Sunkel both return. The duo combined for 44 points in the Wolves’ season-opening 70-53 win Tuesday against Bremerton.

“Jackie and Taylor play at a higher level and they know,” Hulet said. “We’re really fortunate to have that level of talent.”

He said that assessment includes senior Ali Davis, who moves from her role as first player off the bench to the starting lineup. Hulet said Davis’ athleticism makes her a good fit for his system. In addition to her ability to run the fast break, he said she is versatile on defense. When Sunkel ran into foul trouble against Bremerton, Hulet moved the 5-foot-9 Davis into the post.

While those three are at the center of South’s transition, Hulet said he needs to develop depth and enhance the team’s conditioning to run his program.

Three other seniors, guards Amy and Carly Bakalarski and post Maile Keanu, have varsity experience, but most of the bench is comprised of newcomers.

“We want to get out, we want to push, scramble and press a little bit,” Hulet said. “We’re just not there yet with our press yet.”

That showed against Bremerton, which shot 34 free throws against his team.

“We started reaching too much and I think that was more fatigued than anything,” Hulet said. “We need to get better with our conditioning.”

He is confident his team has the athleticism to effectively run the system, and he said the Wolves should be buoyed by the addition of a couple of players, including 5-10 senior wing Courtney Conklin-Smith, who did not have enough practices to play in the opener. Hulet also is excited about a few other players, including 5-10 post Hayley O’Dell, who is the only sophomore on varsity. She scored four points against Bremerton.

“She came in and did just a great job,” Hulet said. “I thought she contributed big time for a sophomore.”

South finished second in 4A Narrows with an 11-3 league record last season. With the trio of Davis, Steiger and Sunkel returning, a berth in the West Central District Tournament or even state appears to be a possibility.

He said the Wolves should have an opportunity to distinguish themselves during the December nonleague schedule.

Hulet said his team should be challenged in those contests, particularly Dec. 29 at Stanwood. The Spartans finished with a 15-8 record last season.

But he is not making any projections yet.

“I think that’s premature,” Hulet said. “We have some good athletes and good kids. We just need some people to develop.”

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