Nov. 24—NORWALK — The time is now.
From 2019-21, the Norwalk girls basketball team struggled as it cycled through some inexperience following its two best teams in program history in 2017 and 2018.
But last season, the Truckers returned to winning form with a 14-win effort. However, there was a sense the team left more out there.
Norwalk was just 6-6 in the SBC Lake Division, which included four losses by a combined 14 points — including two in overtime.
Three of those setbacks came by a combined seven points to co-league champions Bellevue and Perkins. Norwalk also lost by three points in its Division II sectional tournament loss to Kenton.
But there was another catch. The Truckers also graduated just one senior and lost only 78 total points from a year ago.
And while Norwalk won a district title in 2017 and lost in a district championship in 2018, the program does not have a league championship on its banner in the gym.
"Ever since the summer, we've talked about one thing, winning the SBC title," Norwalk head coach Brock Manlet said. "It's never been done at Norwalk, and with the production and our kids back, we feel like we have the talent and roster to compete for a league title.
"It's been a talking point since the summer, and it's really been no different from the first day of practice," he added. "We talk about putting in a championship effort every day, and that has sort of been the mantra of this team from the start."
The Truckers will be led by senior post Brooklyn Davis. The four-year player averaged 13.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game last season, which ranked fifth and first in the Lake.
Senior forward Summer Moehlman brings back 6.7 points per game, which included a team-high 26 3-pointers. Sophomore guard Kenzie Smith (6.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists) also returns to the starting lineup, as does classmate guard Abby Koenig (5.4 points, 3.5 rebounds).
Also back with regular playing time is senior guard Emily Koenig (4.8 points), senior forward Kylie Moser (4.8 points, 3.6 rebounds) and senior forward Morgan Leber.
Senior guard Cara Mooney and senior forward Jossalyn Kreps each appeared in 10 games last season.
The sophomore trio of Lucy Schlotterer, Hailey Winner and Shyla Gruhlke combined to appear in nine games as freshmen, and will be counted on to be in the rotation this season.
"Our top eight or nine is pretty set with that group," Manlet said.
Rounding out the roster are senior forward Hannah Steffanni, junior forwards Emma Berger and Cara Ehrenberg, and freshman forward Trinity Lazzara.
"In the 12 years I've been here, we're so far ahead to start a season than I can remember," Manlet said. "We have a ton of stuff put in that, usually, we don't have ready until a month or two in. It's been nice to be able to hit the ground running right from the start.
"This is probably the most prepared we've been so far in terms of everyone being on the same page of what we want to do going into a season. That's obviously a really good feeling as a coach."
Manlet said a big key for the Truckers has been the need to overcome the hurdle of making mistakes.
"The area they've grown the most is not letting a mistake become two or three," he said. "Everyone is going to make mistakes, but this team has made a big step of moving on from a mistake and living in the moment."
As for trying to stay at the top with Bellevue and Perkins — which each bring back a fair share of talent from a year ago — Manlet said fewer turnovers will tell the story.
"First and foremost we have to cut down on our turnovers," he said. "We had a lot of them in crucial moments, especially when you look back on those games against Bellevue and Perkins where we made mistakes we shouldn't have made."
Manlet thinks Norwalk will be solid at the defensive end.
"I don't have a lot of worries there," he said. "For us, it's going to come down to how well we shoot. That's something we were quite inconsistent with last year. I think we'll be better this year, we have more kids who are willing to take shots.
"I think if you catch us on a night we shoot it really well, we will be tough to beat. We don't lose a lot of shooting, and that is also something we didn't have going to our bench last year that we do this year." — No. Name Pos. Yr.
1 Hailey Rinner F 11
2 Cara Mooney G 12
3 Trinity Lazzara F 9
4 Emily Koenig G 12
5 Hannah Steffanni F 12
10 Emma Berger F 11
12 Abby Koenig G 10
13 Shyla Gruhlke G 10
14 Kenzie Smith F 10
15 Brooklyn Davis F 12
20 Morgan Leber F 12
21 Lucy Schlotterer F 10
22 Cara Ehrenberg F 11
23 Kylie Moser F 12
30 Summer Moehlman F 12
33 Jossalyn Kreps F 12