ABINGTON >> As the season rapidly approaches, the Abington girls’ basketball team finds itself in an interesting position.
The Galloping Ghosts have just one senior on their roster, so they’re incredibly young. But a lot of the underclassmen they’ll be looking to have plenty of varsity minutes so, in a way, they’re not that inexperienced. Regardless of who is in what grade or has played how many minutes, the expectations are the same as always.
Of course, a season isn’t completed in a week, so Abington has found a way to play seasons within the season.
“We have a slogan this year of ‘Strive for Five,’” Abington coach Dan Marsh said. “We split the season into five games, four times. We want to win and set personal goals for each of those five games and improve as we go. The reason we do ‘Strive for Five’ is it takes five victories to win a district championship and five victories to win a state championship.”
The team’s lone senior is a good one in forward Lizzie O’Leary, who has signed to play at Delaware. Helping her out in the leadership department is junior Britney James, a three-year varsity player and junior Sam Brusha, who came on strong last season.
Also back in the gym with considerable varsity experience is junior guard Jordyn Allen and sophomores Kassondra Brown, a forward, and guard Miranda Liebtag. Sophomores Camryn Lexow and Tamia Wessells are also returning after playing smaller roles off the bench last season.
“We’ve been having intense practices and trying to work as hard as we can,” O’Leary said. “We are a young team so we need our sophomores and juniors to step up and play the intense game that want to throughout the season.”
Marsh called his entire group “go-getters” and said the three players he’s looking at as leaders get it done with their work ethic and preparation. Brusha is usually the first player in and last player out of the gym, with Marsh saying he wouldn’t be surprised if the wing ends up leading the team in scoring.
O’Leary has been a mainstay in the lineup since her sophomore season, when she transferred back to Abington after a year at Archbishop Wood. The senior is in range of reaching 1,000 points, coming into the year with 816 and with Brown, forms a pretty formidable front line both on the glass and scoring in the paint.
“We have the same offensive plan, we know Britney and Sam can do it,” O’Leary said. “I don’t if many teams can match up with us and they’re going to have to plan for that then we’ll just adjust to whatever they do.”
James takes over a point guard position that’s had a heavy senior influence in recent years, with Gabbie Nolan and Deja Rawls two years ago and Sammy Lochner last season. The most vocal of the team’s big three, James is a creator one of several Ghosts who put in a lot of work to improve her game.
The team had a really strong fall, whether it was workouts or fall league games, another reason the Ghosts feel confident despite their youth. O’Leary said the team continually had great attendance at its workouts with most of the team, save standout soccer player Lexow, being strictly basketball players.
“This is the furthest we’ve been as far as preparation for the season in a long time,” Marsh said. “These kids really want to work hard. They’re looking forward to getting to the season, it’s a little tough in this stretch because you’re just practicing and it gets a little monotonous, but they’ve been pushing through it and working hard.”
Abington went 21-8 last season, finishing ninth in District I and falling to eventual state finalist Cardinal O’Hara in the first round of the state tournament. The Ghosts are now in the new 6A classification and are looking to ascend back to the top of the SOL National standings after finishing second to Neshaminy last year.
While Neshaminy, with a good deal of its core back, may be the favorite, both Marsh and O’Leary said they don’t believe the Ghosts will be playing under the radar given the program’s tradition.
Even with the presence of O’Leary and Brown up front, don’t expect Abington to be a one-dimensional team. Marsh said there will be at least three to four scorers on the floor at a given time but added everything depends on the team’s ability to move the ball.
“We have some great shooters on the team, Jordyn and Sam have been sharpshooters for us in the fall,” O’Leary said. “If they’re doubling-down inside, we’ll gladly go back out to them. If they’re hitting they can throw it right back down inside.”
O’Leary said she’s been trying to push her teammates more as well as encourage but also teach the players taking on bigger roles. She said it’s important that they see what they’re doing wrong, as long as it’s done constructively so those players can confidence to contribute later in the campaign.
“Our goals are pretty clear,” Marsh said. “We want to win our league, we want to compete for a district championship and compete for a state championship. I think anything less would be a disappointment and that’s how they feel.”