Hailie Becker

Northwest sophomore Hallie Becker dribbles in a game last season. Becker is the Lions’ starting point guard this year.

Linn was the head coach from 2003-06. Before then, he led the girls team at Santa Fe in western Missouri from 1997-2003.

Linn takes over for Greg Fortner to begin his 10th year as a head coach.

Right away, Linn said, he has to acknowledge a significant loss – the graduation of Greg Fortner’s daughter, Megan Fortner, who led the Lions to a 12-14 overall record.

Fortner is playing softball at Jacksonville State University in Alabama. Last season, she averaged 22 points and 9 rebounds per game. Linn said he is looking for a number of players to fill the void.

“We are young but we have some athletes,” Linn said, calling this season a rebuilding year.

One of those players Linn is looking to is 5-7 sophomore point guard Hallie Becker. She saw some playing time last season as a freshman.

“She has a tremendous upside,” he said. “She has a great ability to see the floor and distribute.”

Playing at the wing spots are twin sisters, 5-6 juniors Jenna and Sarah Roth, both returning starters. Two of the school’s softball stars, they make up the middle infield for the Lions, who finished fourth in the state in Class 4 this fall.

“Jenna and Sarah are solid shooters, smart players,” Linn said.

Sarah Roth is the team’s returning leading scorer from last season, when she averaged 5 points per game. Junior Jill Schmoll, who stands 5-7, and senior Abby Wright (5-9) are expected to be the starting post players.

“Schmoll does all the little things and she’s improving as a shooter,” Linn said.

Wright, who averaged 4.6 points and 5 rebounds per game last season, will be counted on to be productive again and she could help fill the void left by Fortner.

“Wright is our best offensive post,” Linn said.

Sophomore Grace Eimer will have backup point guard duties and could also play the wing spots. “Eimer worked harder on her game this summer than anyone we have. She worked her way up the depth chart through hard work,” Linn said.

Also providing depth at the wing positions are 5-7 senior Antonia Melendres, 5-3 junior Lane Petry and junior Alyssa Brown.

Providing depth at the post along with Brown are sophomores Carly Ricks and Brooke Campbell. Freshman Sophie Surdyke figures to be in the mix to help bolster the post position.

Linn said he wants the players and team to get better every day and “to improve every week.”

“We will run a system and keep things simple to start with,” he said. “We want to take care of the ball, take good shots and play man-to-man (defense).”

Besides Fortner, three other players, Hannah Krebs, Amanda Long and Jordan Owens, also graduated from last year’s team.

Last year’s squad finished third in the Suburban Conference Blue pool at 5-2 behind Jennings (7-0) and McCluer South-Berkeley (6-1).

Northwest started out slow but improved as the season went along. The Lions won the Liberty (Wentzville) Christmas Tournament championship and had a six-game winning streak in late January to early February. Most of those wins were conference wins. Last year, the Lions fell to Poplar Bluff in the first game of the Class 5 District 1 tournament.

Northwest opened the season at home against Rockwood Summit on Tuesday after the Leader deadline. The Lions play in the Fountain City Classic at De Soto on Dec. 2-7. Conference play starts Jan. 28 when they host Hazelwood East.