SPRING VALLEY, WI - The beginning of s new season always holds a lot of promise and potential. Players are excited to get the season going, to play against players other than their own teammates. Coaches get to see how their plans are working out. Fans get to see what their teams are made of.

The Spring Valley girls’ basketball team lost their season opener last Thursday against Alma-Pepin here last Thursday, 52-45. Even in that loss there was some definite positives and plenty of reasons to be excited about what the Cardinals have to offer this season.

The biggest takeaway for the Cardinals might be making sure they are called for fewer fouls. The Cardinals were whistled for 31 fouls in the game, while Alma-Pepin was called for 22 fouls. That is not completely unusual in the early games of the season, but it was definitely the difference maker between winning and losing.

The Eagles made 25-of-39 from the free throw line where the Cardinals were 10-of-19. That is one by-product of so many fouls. The other key by-product is players fouling out of the game.

The Cardinals had three players foul out, senior Erin Stans and junior Sandy Bune, who are both starters, and sophomore Jasmine Ortner.

The Cardinals found themselves in a hole at halftime as Alma-Pepin jumped out to a 26-18 lead that was at times double-digits.

“We needed to do a better job at taking care of the ball,” said Head Coach Sean Hoolihan. He added that those first game jitters were evident in both teams’ play. “I think everyone was just excited to be out there playing.”

After falling behind by as many as 14 points in the second half, the Cardinals started to step up their play. They started to get a little more aggressive defensively, which resulted in cutting down the lead, but also in more fouls.

The Eagles got to the free throw stripe 34 times in the second half, making 22 of those opportunities. The Cardinal defense held Alma-Pepin to just two second half field goals.

In the end, all those free throws made the difference, especially by Alma-Pepin senior Maci Luff. Luff finished the game with 24 points, leading all scorers. She was the only Eagle to score field goals in the second half, and she made 11-of 18 free throws in the game, including 10-of-15 in the second half. Fellow senior Erin Siefert scored 11 points for the Eagles to help the cause as well.

Junior Lexi Johansen led the Cardinals with 12 points while Bune chipped in another 11 to help the team. Bune fouled out of the game with more than four minutes left in the game.

The Cardinals played at Clear Lake this past Tuesday to try to get on the winning track. They will also start the conference schedule on Thursday, November 29, hosting Colfax.