At times his team runs like a well-oiled machine and other times his team hits a speed bump and has trouble getting in gear.
It was exactly what first-year coach Chris Jeffries expected when he took over a Conestoga girls basketball program with proven senior leadership coupled with talented underclassmen that has formed a tight bond.
“There were lots of names that was I familiar with on the way in so I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch,’ said Jeffries, who spent the past nine seasons as an assistant girls basketball coach at Radnor High School. “The fall workouts definitely helped but we still have a long way to go.’
Conestoga senior Jill Masicoli said, “It has been an adjustment but Coach Jeffries has done a good job of transitioning us into his system and we have been together for a while so it has not been as big of impact people might assume. It is a different system and different defenses but we have our core and we are doing our best.’
Jeffries was named Conestoga’s head coach on June 15, replacing John Jones, who stepped down after 18 years so he could watch his daughter Anna, a sophomore who plays basketball at Haverford High School.
“I have waited a longtime to run my own program’ Jeffries said. “I paid my dues and learned a lot as an assistant. I know what it takes to win at this level and Conestoga has the pieces to make that happen. The staff, players and parents have all been very welcoming and we will make it work together.’
Although there have been an ups and downs, an advantage Conestoga (4-4 as of Jan. 5) has is a roster containing six seniors — Jill Mascioli, Brooke Bassett, Sammy Stephens, Jess Monastero, Jenna Satell and Annie Fitzgerald — that have begun to pave the way for the younger kids including sophomores Sarah Mascioli and Emma Powell along with juniors Emily Conaway, Sondra Dickey and Liz Atwood and Ellie Mack (sidelined for the year with an ACL injury).
“I have always said that you can’t put a price on leadership,’ Jeffries said following his team’s recent win over Bishop McDevitt at the West Chester Christmas Tournament. “I have six seniors that have been through the ringer and that’s invaluable. They will inevitably pass their knowledge onto the younger kids. Experience and leadership is something you can’t replace but they are paving the way for the younger kids.’
“Our seniors have done a good job of bringing us together as a team and leading the way,’ said Powell.
As one calendar year ends and another begins, the Pioneers are ready to continue its exploration with Jeffries and the rest of the coaching staff-Pete Ricci and former player Ellen Hill. Despite the expected bumps in the road when Jeffries’ system has success its is quite a site to see for players, fans and coaches.
One of the biggest advantages in the system is incorporating the entire program mixing the JV and Varsity program together in practice so when the team takes the court in games everyone is on the same page.
“It helps a lot bringing the entire program together,’ said the older Mascioli. “We have good chemistry and it transitions well on the court from practice to games.’
With the growing pains hopefully in the rear view mirror, the future is definitely bright.
“The seniors have definitely taught us many valuable lessons including the importance of team unity, communication and energy,’ said Powell.
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