Grace Beyer wouldn't allow this season's Mukwonago girls basketball team to have a drop-off from the 2015-16 state runnerup squad. The sophomore gained valuable experience as a freshman starter and was recently honored as the 2016-17 Classic 8 Player of the Year.
"I was really excited that all my hard work had paid off, because it was a goal of mine at the beginning of the season to try to show everyone that sophomores could do anything that any senior or junior could do," Beyer said.
On Monday, Beyer was named one of two Division 1 players earning unanimous first-team All State accolades from the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association, joining another sophomore, Milwaukee King's Sydnee Roby, in achieving the feat. Earning that distinction and winning the league Player of the Year award in the difficult Classic 8 is hard enough, but to do it as an underclassman is a rare feat.
"I think it is a great accomplishment for Grace, and it is well deserved," Mukwonago coach Rick Kolinske said. "What Grace has done this year has been incredibly impressive. Grace is extremely efficient in every aspect of her game. This is something that is very easy to see when you look at her statistics. Her shooting percentages from the field (46 percent), free throw line (85 percent), and 3-point line (40 percent) are absolutely incredible."
Beyer didn't think much of trying to win Player of the Year once the season began, but it was certainly a possibility after a strong freshman debut.
"After the season started, I didn't worry about it because I just wanted to have a good season with my team, enjoy the moment that we were in and not look forward," Beyer said. "I thought it was a long shot because normally, senior, juniors and upperclassmen get it. It just made me work even harder and push myself even more."
Beyer was second on the team with 144 rebounds and 47 steals and led the team with 425 points (17.8 per game) and 89 assists. Beyer also turned the ball over just 42 times in 25 games (1.68 per game).
"She is a great defender who rarely ever turns the ball over, which played a huge role for us last season in reaching the state-championship game," Kolinske said. "I think one thing that really makes her such a special player is that her basketball IQ is off the charts. She is extremely intelligent and is a fantastic decision maker. She's our coach on the floor. This is something that has helped our program as soon as she joined us her freshman year. She played a huge role for us last year as our starting point guard, on our state runnerup team. This played a dramatic role for us being as successful as we have been. Our record since Grace's freshman year is an impressive 46-7. She has definitely played a huge role in our team's success both seasons, and we are very fortunate to have her on our team for a couple more years."
The sophomore captain focused on improving her skills outside of practice on a daily basis.
"We work extremely hard in practice," Beyer said. "Hard work is contagious. It shows on the court. Everyone puts in extra time outside of practice, which really helps because you're getting the extra shots up and you're putting in more than anyone else."
Each Mukwonago starter was honored by the Classic 8 coaches. Sophomore Natalie Andersen and freshman Angie Cera made the second team, while senior Nikki Huber and freshman Dru Henning were honorable mention.
"Everyone supported each other," Beyer said. "The team chemistry was great. Everyone knew their roles and played them very well, whether they played or didn't."
Coming into this year, Mukwonago may have caught some teams off guard, but that will likely not be the case next season.
"Next year, we'll still be a young team, but everyone will step up," Beyer said. "I'm confident that everyone will step up into new roles and new positions and everyone can contribute to the team next year."
To Beyer, there will be no added pressure after winning Player of the Year as a sophomore.
"I'm not really worried about it," Beyer said. "That's in the past. You've got to look forward into the new season when it's coming up and you can't worry about the past. You just have to continue working on your game, because people are trying to bring you down and work even harder to catch up to you."
WBCA first-team All State: Grace Beyer, soph., Mukwonago*; Erin Howard, jr., Madison East ; Jayda Jansen, jr., Sun Prairie ; Bria Lemirande, sr., Middleton; Sydney Levy, jr., Appleton North; Alex Luehring, sr., Verona ; Chloe Marotta, jr., Homestead; Lizzie Miller, sr., De Pere; Sydnee Roby, soph., Milwaukee King*; Kenzie Schmitz, sr., Germantown
Honorable Mention: Kari Brekke, jr., Appleton North; Caroline Busch, sr., Brookfield Central; Ema Fehrenbach, sr., Marshfield; Grace Gilmore, sr., Arrowhead; Abby Guidinger, sr., Kettle Moraine; Lexi Hanley, sr., Chippewa Falls; Caitlyn Harper, jr., Arrowhead; Maddie Re, sr., Bay Port