HASTINGS, Neb – Replacing graduated seniors is a tough task for any team. The Hawkettes will not have to deal with that problem this year. 

Hastings St. Cecilia, like most other high school basketball teams, will open their season on Thursday evening. 

The squad led by 8th-year head coach Greg Berndt is looking to improve on a Class D1 state runner-up finish in 2022-23.

The Hawkettes return to Class C2 this year due to increased enrollment numbers, and will go to battle behind one of the team's leaders in Senior Forward Ryann Sabatka. 

"It was definitely this year and last year that I've had to step up into a leadership role," said Sabatka. "It was kind of like I'm the big dog now, I have to stay calm, cool, and collected so that the younger girls can feel good on the court."

St. Cecilia had no seniors to graduate and return their starting five to the court this season. 

"Now we can grow with each other, instead of trying to figure out how each other play, we can figure out 'this person's growing in this way, how do we work around that?" said Sabatka. 

It wasn't just the upperclassmen that paced the team last year. Now-sophomore Avery Kissinger led the team and Class D1 the three-point category with 61 made threes in the season.

"Everyone knows I'm a shooter now, as a freshman, they really didn't know," said Kissinger. "I'm going to have to improve on other ways of scoring, layups, pull-ups, any other way to score."

Coach Berndt knows he has a solid team heading into December, but will have to stay humble with their young talent. 

"Motivation is there, enthusiasm has been pretty good," said Berndt. "There's quite a bit of youth up and down the roster, so we'll be a different team in February than we are in the first part of December. That's kind of the fun part of coaching is watching young teams build towards the end of the year."

"We're really hoping to make it back to state, make it to the championship." said Kissinger. 

St. Cecilia opens their season on Thursday at home versus Columbus Scotus.