When the Faribault Falcons open their season at Rochester Mayo Tuesday night on KDHL Radio they won't be a big underdog.

The Minnesota Basketball News girls basketball preseason rankings have Faribault #20 in Class 3A.

The Falcons were 6th in the Big Nine last season and finished the year with a 15-13 record.

They were one of seven teams in the conference with double digit wins (11-11) and were one of only two teams in the conference to defeat the Big Nine Co-Champion Rochester Mayo Spartans.

The other Mayo loss in the league came against Owatonna.

Winona was the Co-Champion and got all the way to the Class 3A title game before falling to a very good Orono Spartan team 65-47.

Mayo lost to a very good Lakeville North team in the Section 1 Class 4A title contest 46-41.

Owatonna is #20 in Class 4A in the preseason picks and Mayo is not in the top 20 but make no mistake with Rich Decker at the helm they will be a formidable opponent every night they play.

Northfield is the other Big Nine team in the preseason rankings at #8 in Class 3A.

Decker coached teams always control tempo.

Last season the Mayo Spartans led the Big Nine in scoring defense allowing just 38.7 points per game.

Faribault was #4 in the league at 45.5.  Northfield was #2 45.2, Winona #3 45.4.

Five teams allowed under 50 points per game.

I stopped by a practice at Nomeland Gym Monday and watched some of the drills the girls were doing to get prepared for their opening game.

Head Coach Bill Bardal is eager to get the season underway with a veteran team that has taken it's lumps early and has been building toward this year.

Senior Grace Amacher has been on varsity since her 8th grade season and is 117 points shy of 1,000 in her career.

Other seniors on the team include Megan Gehrke, Lauren Isaacson, Bre Bresnahan and Rachel Hanson.

All have logged significant minutes for multiple seasons coming into this year and that's why Coach Bardal says they will be his starters.

There is not a ton of experience after that but Coach Bardal believes he will have some weapons coming off the bench.

Junior guard Abby Van Ryn has looked very good in practices and the scrimmage last Saturday.

Freshman Bennett Wolff was out with an injury most of last season.

Coach Bardal also says eighth grader Evy Vettrus is a very good shooter and he believes this team will be a good shooting club.

The Falcons struggled to score at times last season and ranked 10th out of the 12 teams in the Big Nine averaging 44.6 points per game.

Mayo was 8th in scoring 49.3.

The top Big Nine scoring team was Owatonna averaging 66 points per contest.

The only other team to average 60 points was Winona (60.3).

Rochester Mayo has six seniors on their roster and lots of size.  Four girls are listed 6'0 or better.

Height is not included on the Faribault roster but I can tell you they don't have four people taller than 6'0.

Coach Bardal has a new Assistant this year and is excited about the contributions Mariah Monke has already made to the team.

Monke is the daughter of former Faribault Middle School Principal Dean Monke who moved to Fergus Falls to become their HIgh School Principal when she was in third grade.

The 6'0 Monke was an All-State performer and played at the State Tournament a couple of seasons before going to play Division One college basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Monke has already helped Bardal implement the UW-Green Bay offense.

She told me Monday what impresses her about the Falcon girls is their physical strength which should help them get to the free throw line a lot this season.

Coach Bardal says he and his coaches have adopted a completely new offense so he's eager to see how they perform in a real game situation.

Last year the Falcons had winning records at home (8-7) and on the road (7-5)  before losing in Section play to a very good New Ulm team at Gustavus in early March.

Coverage will begin 7:15 Tuesday night on KDHL Radio, 920AM, www.kdhlradio.com or people can download the FREE Radio Pup app and listen on their favorite mobile device.

Faribault Falcon Assistant Coach Mariah Monke. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Falcon Girls Basketball Players L-Abby Van Ryn, M- Grace Amacher, R-Lauren Isaacson. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld