The Mandan Braves enter 2022 with a young roster and a new face at the helm, but all these changes aren’t deterring this young core into believing that they can play for a postseason spot at the end of the year.

Maureen Larson is bringing a lot of experience as a first-year head coach at Mandan, a player and an assistant at UMary, and most recently coaching at New Salem Almont. Moving to the WDA hasn’t changed her philosophy.

“A lot of our focus this year that we’ve been talking about is being positive and being in shape and those are the two things that we want to do this year,” says HC Maureen Larson. “So far the girls have been really great at being open-minded and a lot of girls are playing in different positions and I think that they’ve handled that really well and adjusted to it really well.”

Players like Ellie McElvaney, Mandan’s standout junior who is roaming on the court wherever she’s needed.

“I went on the outside a little bit,” says McElvaney. “And then we changed me to the right side so I can set back row if needed and it’s just adjusting to the new thing. Obviously, some of the teams that we are going to be versing, it just depends on how we play during that game.”

It’s been a tough start for the Braves, but it’s also been a tough schedule, already facing two state tournament teams in the first four games. Battle-tested is the best way to describe Mandan.

“After a loss, she really keeps us in line,” says Senior Sydney Heinert. “With anything and everything that we do. She’s just telling us, hey, we got to keep our mind out of the gutter and we just got to keep pushing through it and she always comes with a smile on her face and that’s what I really appreciate.”

Coach Larson is only asking for improvements, she knows she has plenty of time with a young core of girls with hopes of making a few surprises come tournament time.

“I think the girls are really starting to buy into what the coaches are telling them,” says Larson. “I’m excited to see that growth. I think right now, we need to work on putting the ball down and scoring points and I’m hoping we can get there by the end of the season.”