SVC women's basketball coaches

Skagit Valley College women’s basketball coach Deb Castle (kneeling) talks to her team during a timeout Jan. 24.

MOUNT VERNON — In Deb Castle's inaugural season as coach of the Skagit Valley College women's basketball team, the squad had six players.

Castle has been busy this offseason, spending hours watching video, emailing, texting and talking on the phone in an effort to get more players.

Now she can sit back — albeit briefly — knowing her first 2020-21 recruiting class is in the books.

A class consisting of 10 freshmen have signed letters of intent to play for Skagit Valley next season. The group joins three returning players.

"To be able to say I have 10 kids coming in is great," Castle said. "I feel we are bringing in a lot of quality people. And when I say quality, I mean good citizens and good students and good basketball players and good personalities. I just fell in love with their personalities.

"I am bringing in good basketball players that I feel can make us better ... They are going to mix well with the three we have coming back."

At the post position, second-team all-conference returner Melissa Frein (6-foot-2) of Anacortes will be joined by Stanwood's Rachel Dunning (6-1), whose final high school season was cut short by injury.

Elizabeth Fefelov (5-10), arrives at Skagit Valley from Nikolaevsk, Alaska, while Alexus Atkins (6-0) comes from Marysville-Getchell High School.

"Atkins is a big body and is very capable of pushing some people around," Castle said.

At the power-forward position, Castle signed Stanwood's Madison Plautz (5-9) as well as Abby Yost (5-9) from Mount Baker High School and Cassidy Sroor (5-10) from Lacey's River Ridge High School.

"Plautz can score and loves to rebound," Castle said. "She can play the three and loves to drive left and is very aggressive."

Yost is the third Yost sister to play for the Cardinals.

"Abby is the last and will play a lot at the three (position), but we will move her into the four spot as well," Castle said. "She loves to rebound."

At the guard position, joining sophomores Josie Bocci (5-6) of Lynden Christian and Everett's Brooklyn Johnson (5-9) will be Ashley Thomas (5-6) of Ferndale. Thomas will also play soccer for the Cardinals.

"It's always exciting to have dual-sport athletes," Castle added. "We have four and I welcome that."

Glacier Peak's Kailyn Allison (5-7) will also play guard for the Cardinals. Her father played soccer at Skagit Valley for legendary coach,Dave Ryberg. 

Okanogan's Isabel Buchert (5-8) was described by Castle as being a solid scorer while Shauna Koonuk (5-5) of Aniak, Alaska, is a point guard with range.

"She's a shooter," Castle said of Koonuk. "For her size, she can shoot from 4 feet behind the 3-point line."

Grace Shaddle of Mercer Island was described by Castle as a 5-foot, 8-inch, shooter who has great length and can play the point. She will also swing the clubs as a member of the school's women's golf team.

Recruiting was by no means an easy task. Some shied away from the school because of last season's struggles to field a complete team.

"Recruiting has been a little tough and I understand why," Castle said. "Some of the top recruits don't want to come to a college where they only had six players the year before. They're afraid of coming to a team that is going to be that again. Until I can prove myself, I completely understand that."

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