Magnolia coach Erika Ritter has lauded District 19-5A as one of the toughest in the state. But nonetheless, the Lady Bulldogs are optimistic about their chances of competing successfully.

Magnolia is looking to improve this time around and challenge for a postseason spot after winning just 11 games last season and finishing with a 5-7 record in league action.

The Lady Bulldogs have three starters returning to the fold this year with senior guard Audrey Andrews, and junior forwards Sophie Christiansen and Gabrielle Huetter.

“They were 30 points a game for us last year,” Ritter said. “That’s exciting that we have those players on our roster again. We’re going to be asking a lot of those three this season. We would like for each of them to double their points, and I think with their experience — because they played a lot of minutes last year — they know what it’s about now.”

They Lady Bulldogs’ offense will run through Andrews, who has shown a lot of improvement since she first entered the program. She will be counted on for an even bigger role this year.

“She shot the ball 48 percent from the field last year,” Ritter said. “She is playing the best ball right now of her career. She has a lot of confidence. She’s driving to the basket well, she’s increased her range, and she is consistent now from the 3-point line.”

Christiansen was the most dependable front-court player for Magnolia last season She is expected to fill those shoes once again as the Lady Bulldogs’ leading returning rebounder.

“It’s exciting to see her back on the floor,” Ritter said. “She’ll certainly be one of our top rebounders again. Sophie has also increased her shooting range. We’ll be able to bring her out to the perimeter more. She won’t have to just stay in the paint, which makes her more versatile.”

Huetter is one of the top 3-point shooters on the Lady Bulldogs’ roster and should be able to contribute more scoring this season as her game progresses.

“She’s mature from last year, and she’s developed into a solid player,” Ritter said.

Magnolia is also looking for contributions from sophomore guards Claire McCusker, Emiley Boone and Tate Perugini, sophomore post Brynn Botkin, junior post Jaime Holder, and junior forwards Luci Salerno and Reina King.

“Right now, we’re just experimenting with where they’re going to play, developing them into their roles,” Ritter said. “I believe it will take the entire non-district season to see exactly where their roles are going to be. These kids are eager to learn — they’re like sponges. You tell them to do something once, and they go do it. It’s just a great group of kids.”

The Lady Bulldogs will have their work cut out for them in district play. Magnolia will be facing off against Magnolia West, College Station, Bryan Rudder, Waller, A&M Consolidated, Brenham and Katy Paetow again this season.

“Last year, we had two teams make it to the regional tournament (College Station, Magnolia West) and another team make it to the regional quarterfinals (Rudder),” Ritter said. “When you win our district, you’re going to have a chance in the playoffs. We were not picked preseason in the top of our district, so we need to be able to compete every single night of district play.”

jpoorman@hcnonline.com

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