It seems to be a recurring theme every November for Archbishop Wood’s girls’ basketball program.
At the start of every new season, the Vikings have to find a way to replace a few starters and key bench players from the previous campaign. Often, those departed players are on college rosters, so it makes the task appear even more daunting.
It’s the case this winter but as the season fast approaches, Wood looks like it’ll be in position for its usual goals of contending for the PCL and PIAA 5A titles. Due to PIAA enrollment and classification numbers changing this summer, the Vikings had the option to drop down a class to 4A, but Wood coach Mike McDonald said the program opted to stay in 5A where they’ve been since the split to six classes in 2015.
Wood lost four seniors from last year’s state runner-up team, three of them starters. Chief among them is Katie May, last year’s 5A State Player of the Year and already a starter at Northeastern.
“Katie did everything on the court for us for four years,” McDonald said. “Her basketball IQ is exceptional, and most importantly, she made everyone else better. This is why she is a leader in minutes for a 5-0 Northeastern University as a freshman.”
Erin Morgan, Bridget Arcidacono and Nicki Greenberg also graduated, with Morgan and Arcidiacono moving on to play in college. Arcidiacono has found her way to minutes at Jefferson University while Morgan not only walked on at La Salle, but has become a starter for the Explorers.
“Erin Morgan was another smart, tough player who did the 95 percent of the game without the ball well and made baskets when they mattered,” McDonald said. “Arcidiacono and Greenberg both provided length and athleticism that disrupted opponents offense. Ultimately we lost four players who understand the importance of all the things necessary to win games that have nothing to do with scoring.”
Wood’s depth will be even more tested early on in the season due to injuries to a couple players in Shelby Henches and Mia Andrews, a senior co-captan, the Vikings expected to factor heavily.
“Shelby is a 6-foot-2 forward with a high motor who rebounded every ball she had a chance to and was impressively improving her offensive game this AAU season,” McDonald said. “Mia’s best attributes are luckily still available to us; she is an incredible leader, who is vocal and understands the expectations of the program. We will have to find other options to replace some of the shooting and scoring ability she brought to the table the last two years.”
There’s still plenty to like about what the Vikings have in the gym this winter. Senior Annie Whalen and sophomore Kaitlyn Orihel return as starters, with Orihel coming off a first team All-PCL and third team all-state season as a freshman. Seniors Ryleigh Parsons and Liz Fasti, both point guard, join Whalen and Andrews as the team’s captains.
As solid as Orihel was last year, averaging a shade more than 10 points per game, McDonald said the wing has gotten even better after a strong summer playing AAU with the Philly Belles program.
“She looks twice as good this year after putting in a ton of hard work and playing high level AAU for the Philadelphia Belles in the Nike EYBL circuit. She shot 43% from 3 last year and well over 50% from two,” McDonald said. “She is much more explosive this year with a variety of confident finishes and now has a much quicker release on her shot. Her motor is phenomenal and now she is more skilled off the bounce.”
Whalen, who committed to Kutztown earlier this school year, is another player who’s made big strides over the summer as she heads into her second year with Wood.
Most years, Wood finishes the season a deeper team than it starts and it’s not unusual for a young player to go from limited minutes early to a critical role by the time the postseason arrives. Andrews did it as a sophomore while last year, Lindsay Tretter came on late as a big-shot maker for Wood.
“Her length causes issues on the defensive end and she can shoot it from NBA range,” McDonald said of the 5-foot-8 junior guard. “Look for her to have a breakout season after playing a major role in states as a sophomore.”
McDonald also listed sophomores Noelle Baxter and Caroline McSorley, who is in her first year with Wood, as players who should factor in the rotation along with freshmen Brianna Bowen and Ryanne Allen.
Allen, a 6-foot wing, could easily follow in Orihel’s steps as a freshman who quickly becomes a go-to player for Wood on both ends of the floor, which is a necessity playing in the Vikings’ system.
“She has one of the smoothest strokes I have seen at her age and can shoot it from anywhere inside or out.” McDonald said. “Can handle, attack and play with her back to the basket. She is incredibly competitive and eager to learn, so the sky is the limit.”
Wood will once again play its typical gauntlet of a nonleague schedule to go along with the annual grind of the PCL. Despite making it to Hershey last year, the Vikings didn’t get a trip to the Palestra after losing in the PCL semifinals, so that will be a primary goal for the season.
While many of Wood’s games take place out of state, including this Saturday’s opener against National Christian in the Art Turner Memorial held in Virginia, the Vikings have a couple of intriguing in-state nonleague duels. On Saturday, Dec. 15, Wood will play a rare early season home game when it faces defending PIAA 6A champion Upper Dublin at 3 pm as part of the Diane Mosco Foundation Scholarship Games.
About a month later, on Sunday Jan. 13, the Vikings will face defending Inter-Ac champion Germantown Academy as part of the Play by Play Classics Maggie Lucas Showcase at Jefferson. Wood will again travel to Arizona for the Nike Tournament of Champions the week before Christmas and play in the She Got Game Classic (MD), Blue Star Showcase (Jan. 6 at Jefferson) and Hoops for Hope Classic (Jan 26 at USciences).
“We will be playing a high-level national non-league schedule again that should prepare us for the playoffs,” McDonald said. “We expect to once again have the talent to compete for the PCL Championship and 5A state championship.”
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