After nine years away from the bench and spending last year in the broadcast booth for KIOW, Beth Van Roekel is back on the bench for the Lake Mills girls’ basketball team. Van Roekel was officially hired by the Lake Mills Community School Board of Education during their April 2022 board meeting.
“Basketball is my passion; it is my favorite sport – I just love the game of basketball,” Van Roekel said. “The opportunity to be able to coach was an option I really wanted to do to see kids grow,” she continued.
Van Roekel (Skogen) should be familiar to Lake Mills basketball fans, not only for her previous coaching, but Beth is also one of the greatest players to go through the program. A star for the Lake Mills program from 1994-97, Van Roekel scored 1,117 points in purple and gold and was also named a third-team all-stater following her senior season. Her point total stood as the program’s top mark for two decades before Laura Knudtson scored 1,247 during her career from 2015-18.
Following her Lake Mills playing career, Van Roekel moved on to Waldorf (college), where she put together a hall-of-fame career playing for legendary coach Denny Jerome. While at Waldorf, Van Roekel scored 1,015 career points in just two seasons while she dished out 207 assists. She was twice named First-Team All-Region, an Honorable Mentioned All-American as a freshman, and Third-Team NJCAA All-American as a sophomore. She also once dropped 40 points in a game during the 1998-99 season. She was inducted into the Waldorf University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2019.
She left the area to finish her schooling at Wayne State and Simpson Colleges before settling in Ankeny as a police officer from 2001-2005. After experiencing the big city, Van Roekel knew she wanted to raise a family in a small town as she was, and she decided to return to Lake Mills as a paraeducator and middle school basketball coach.
“It was a super fun experience to start with the basics and see the kids grow, share your passion with them, and see their excitement and joy when they (succeeded),” said Van Roekel.
Van Roekel’s first varsity head coaching gig came at Lake Mills from 2011-13, and she led the Bulldogs to a 31-37 overall record. Though the passion was there for those three years, the timing wasn’t right for Van Roekel and her family. In those previous years, she was a new mother and pregnant.
“I’ve defiantly grown and have a lot more experience since then. In those years, I based much of what I wanted to do on what I’ve done. This time around, I’m (researching) and finding out what is best in this (era) of basketball, said Van Roekel.
Van Roekel is inheriting a program on the rise. The Bulldogs went from 3-19 in 2021 to 8-14 in 2022; Lake Mills also upset county rival Forest City who was ranked in Class 3A at the time. They lost to West Hancock 79-13 the first time they played the Eagles and then fought to a 10-point loss the second time around against the Eagles. Though because of the conference Lake Mills plays in, the Bulldogs will continue to have a large mountain to climb. The conference includes Bishop Garrigan, who is coming off a state championship last year; West Hancock, who is constantly ranked and played for a state title in 2019, Forest City, who was ranked for much of last season and made the regional final, and North Union who was also ranked last year and made the state tournament in 2018.
“We have a bright future, but yes, we have a tough conference. We have to come out and play hard and smart – we have to stop turning the ball over. These girls have had a rough couple of years because they played as freshmen and sophomores when they should’ve been on the JV team with a (splash of varsity playing time) – they were thrown into the fire”.
Lake Mills will bring back their leading scorer from last year, Taylor Vanek, along with height inside in the form of Ella Stene, who scored 111 points last year. Natalie Brandenburg and Josie Helgeson scored over 100 points as juniors last season.
“I want (our team) to run a fun, fast pace game; we have ball-handling talent and speed, So I want to run. We will get into an offense set and then free-lance off it if there’s an opening. As a player myself, I was a driver; I would drive to the basket all the time – be exciting”.
The Bulldogs started practice on Monday, and they will open the season against Newman Catholic on November 22nd in Mason City.
More Audio clips from Van Roekel