Though substantial steps were made in his second year at the helm of the Whitefish Bay girls basketball team, coach Jon Schneider knows what the Blue Dukes are going to need to if they want to compete for conference honors and beyond next season.
"The biggest improvement we made this year was just getting used to the system," he said. "It wasn't like last year when we were updating things and learning a system. Now we have a base to operate from. We were able to do things better right from the start.
"But we really need to establish consistency, especially against the good teams. Against (North Shore champion) Germantown, (sectional finalist) Tosa East and (sectional semifinalist) Cedarburg, we would play three-quarters of a great game, but then we'd have these five-six minute lapses where we would lose our identity offensively. We would be able to compete defensively but the offense struggled.
"We just need to be able to play entire games."
Still, Bay improved from 9-14 last season to 14-10 this season as the Blue Dukes' campaign ended in a tough regional final loss to Tosa East.
The Blue Dukes benefited from a fast start to the season as they had a five-game winning streak in December and finished the 2016 portion of the campaign at 7-3. But following that, as Schneider noted, Bay had a hard time establishing any consistency as it never won more than two games in a row for the rest of the season.
Part of the inconsistency came from the erratic nature of the offense.
Sophomore forward Ellie Clements earned well-deserved second-team All-North Shore Conference honors after averaging 13.3 ppg on 53 percent shooting from the floor. She also hit 64 percent of her free throws (66-103) and led the team in rebounds (120), assists (32) and blocked shots (20).
She was one of the few players in the conference to finish in the top five of all those major statistical categories and earned the team's Jack Nagle MVP award.
But establishing a second scorer behind her was difficult for the Blue Dukes as junior guard Ali Menard (6.2 ppg.) was the only other player above six points a game.
"No one really wanted to be that second scorer behind Ellie," said Schneider. 'When she wasn't on, we would really force things (offensively). We just didn't have that second go-to person."
That came to a head in that season ending game against Tosa East when Clements and (junior post) Mia (Brower) fouled out with about six minutes to go.
"The lack of experience, especially offensively, really did us in," Schneider said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to use that experience for next year."
The good thing for the Blue Dukes is that the only seniors on the roster were Sam Loyda, Emma Gunderson, Lauren Behnke and De'Ana Miller. Loyda was a real team leader and was the team's best defender, Schneider said. She earned the team's Duke Pride Award.
Schneider said it was a growing year for the underclassmen teams, but the junior varsity group, after a slow start, swept all its North Shore opponents in the second half of the season.
Provided the offense comes along, Schneider is anticipating some big things next year as returnees such as the 6-1 Brower, 6-0 junior forward Dora Stasiak, who battled injuries all season, and 6-1 freshman forward Elise Whitmoyer will join with several other tall players coming onto the varsity.
"We're adding at least two more six footers," Schneider said, "so I believe that we could be one of the tallest teams in the state ... we'll use all the experience we gained this season and use it as motivation for next year."