Sacred Heart’s Lions ready to roar into February

Bryn Mawr >> If bad luck did not exist, the Country Day School of the Sacred Heart basketball team would not have had any luck at all the past couple of years.
With a roster of young, determined players who continued to follow the leadership of the previous senior classes and the work of the dedicated coaching staff (Zach Shuler, John Cunningham and Sarah O’Doherty), the arduous journey the program has traversed during this senior class’ time is ascending to new heights.
“It means a lot to our program that our girls were able to work together as a team and jump out with some wins early before the league play started,” said Sacred Heart head coach Zach Shuler. “The last few seasons had been tough having to overcome injuries to some key players. Our girls never complained nor did they make excuses, but the losses kept mounting and it can be very deflating. We did see our JV improve a lot by the end of the season and it was fun seeing them not give up and fight to the end. It definitely gave us hope coming into this season.”
“This means a lot,” said senior Emily Robinson. “We all work together and stay positive whenever we lose a game or lose a key player because we have been fortunate enough to have other players step up.”
With basketball being a long season in which injuries can occur, the Country Day School of Sacred Heart certainly experienced those feelings over the past few years losing key players at critical points of the season.
“It all starts in practice,” Robinson said prior to their team’s win over Bristol on January 27. “If you practice hard it will show in the game. We also try to keep everyone upbeat and stay positive. If we do this practice then we will perform well in a game.”
“I have loved seeing this team grow through the years,” said junior Eileen Piombino. “These seniors have done a great job of staying positive and having a great work ethic especially in practice that has transferred to the game.”
While most coaches will assemble a tough non-league schedule to prepare their team for league play, Shuler uses his already competitive AACA schedule to help prepare his team for games they play against teams they could possibly face in the PIAA District One Class AA games.
The strategy has once again paid off for Shuler with the Lions registering key wins over Academy Park, Phil-Mont Christian, Christopher Dock, Delaware County Christian and especially Springfield (Montco) that has put them in a good position to secure a spot in the playoffs after not being there last season for the first time since 2007.
Against Springfield (Montco) in the opening round of the Jenkintown Tournament, the Lions trailed by 13 with 33_03 remining before rallying to force overtime thanks to Doyle. In the first overtime, Caitlin Hughes drilled a three-pointer to force double overtime before Piombino made a reverse lay-up with two minutes left to prople the eventual 53-47 win.
A pivotal role in their success has been the senior leadership displayed by Robinson, Katie Gillin and Megan Cecchine combined with key contributions from juniors Agnes Friend, Piombino; sophomores Kyra Quigley, Caitlin Hughes, Sami Smith, Jaycee Webster, Natasha Karnoto, Liz Franz, and freshman Kayleigh Doyle.
Shuler said, “The seniors have been really key to our success this year. They have great attitudes and have really helped push our younger players to play hard in practices. Not many programs would have seniors stick it out this long and we are grateful to have three who have overcome many obstacles to get where we are currently. All three have played key roles this season. Emily Robinson has been our vocal leader this season and has made big three-pointers all season; Katie Gillin scored a career high seven points vs. Bristol last game, and Megan Cecchine has come in and played tough defense and makes the right decision offensively.”
“When I was a freshman I looked as the seniors as a source of experience and knowledge for our team,” said Piombino, who is now a junior. “I have watched Emily (Robinson) grow and take on that role and it has certainly affected my play in a positive way.”
“Having a successful senior year means a lot,” said Robinson. “I try to be a good role model and keep everyone positive.”
With the regular season winding down and a playoff berth on the horizon, the Lions will do what they do best – take things one game at a time.

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