After two years at the underclass level, Brianna Ankenbrandt has been named the new girls basketball coach at Althoff Catholic High School.
A native of Andover, Kan., Ankenbrandt, is a former graduate assistant at Lindenwood University-Belleville. She replaces Nick Knolhoff, who resigned after two years to become the girls basketball coach at O’Fallon.
It’s been a busy time for Ankenbrandt, 27, who got married less than two weeks ago. But Monday, she was on the sidelines watching her Crusaders compete in back-to-back games in the Southwestern Illinois College summer league.
“Yes, I’ve been very busy with planning and my wedding and then getting this new coaching position,” Ankenbrandt said. “I’m really excited about becoming the girls basketball coach at Althoff. It’s kind of cool that I started coaching at Althoff two years ago and coached the freshmen, and then last year I coached the junior varsity. I feel like we’ve kind of grown together. It makes it easier for these girls to let the younger girls coming in know what I expect from them.
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“The fact that I’ve been here (Althoff) the past two years makes it (the transition) easier. The girls are 100 percent behind me.”
After playing four years of high school basketball, Ankenbrandt played two years at Cowley County (Kansas) College and two years at Division-II Oklahoma Panhandle State.
After graduating from college, Ankenbrandt spend a year as a graduate assistant at Lindenwood University-Belleville and a year as an assistant at Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina, Kan.
Ankenbrandt is currently a teacher and assistant athletic director at Althoff.
“I’m ready and have been ready to be a head coach,” Ankenbrandt said. “Coming from the college level to coaching at the high school level was an adjustment because of the ability levels and the speed of the game are different.
“We’re going to be young — very young — with only two seniors on the team this season. I see my biggest challenge as winning games. I wouldn’t say that we’re rebuilding. But I would think of it as growing. We’re going to take what Knolhoff started and take it from there.”
Althoff was one of the top Class 2A teams in Southern Illinois during the 2016-17 season. The Crusaders won the South Seven Conference championship and finished 20-10, losing to Mater Dei in the final of the Althoff Regional.
The Crusaders graduated several seniors including four-year standouts Kyleigh Vaught and Maggie Reimer, but return a pair of sharpshooters in sisters Gabby and Tiffani Siekmann, as well as Addie Burris, for the upcoming season.
“They will be three of our leaders,” Ankenbrandt said. “On offense, we’re going to open the court up, get up and down the floor, take it to the basket, get fouled and then be able to make our free throws.
“On defense, I like to play man-to-man. We’re going to be guard heavy, so we’re going to have to really get after it. But I’m looking forward to this season and the future. I’ve got a great coaching staff and a good group of girls. It should be a good and fun season.”