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DLN ALL-AREA: Girls Basketball First Team, 2nd Team, Honorable Mention & Coach of the Year

First Team

LAUREN KLIEBER, West Chester East

The junior scored in double figures in 25 of 28 games and led the Vikings to an 18-10 record and a berth in the state tournament for the first time in 18 years. “Lauren fills up the stat sheet,” said her coach Erin Listriani. “She is a proven inside-outside threat. She has the ability to take over a game.” A first-team all-division pick, Klieber averaged 17 points, 7.7 rebounds and knocked down 51 three-pointers this winter.

TESSA LIBERATOSCIOLI, Great Valley

A relentless force, the senior forward averaged 14.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game and led the Patriots to the Ches-Mont American crown. Thanks to a non-stop motor and never quit attitude, Liberatoscioli is a two-time first-team all-division pick. “She’s a gamer, and you want kids like that on your team,” said Oxford coach Jason Wisneski.

MADDY RYAN, Villa Maria

A senior forward, Ryan helped lead the Hurricanes to the deepest state tournament run of any team in the county. She is a first-team All AACA pick and was the league’s recipient of the Markward Club Outstanding Athlete Award. Ryan averaged 12.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game this winter. “Maddy was our most solid player this year,” said her coach Kathy McCartney. “She showed up for us in every game and was one of the best players in our league.”

MOLLY MANION, West Chester Henderson

Unanimously voted the team MVP, Manion led the Warriors in scoring (14 points per game) and added six rebounds an outing. “Molly is a pure scorer,” said Coatesville head coach Scott Barker. “She is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the area,” added Henderson coach Greta Neff. “Her ability to move laterally and create scoring opportunities is unparalleled. She is a student of the game, and puts more time in on the court than many others.”

JOJO LACEY, Westtown

Ranked by MaxPreps as the number three recruit in Pennsylvania, Lacey helped propel Westtown to its first Friends League title since 1997. The 6-footer averaged 12.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, and has signed to play college ball at Boston College. A four-star prospect, Lacey is described as an “athletic guard with versatility in the backcourt,” according to Blue Star Basketball.

Second Team

Caroline Brennan, Downingtown East

Laine McGuirk, West Chester Rustin

Kathryn Greenhut, Senior Bishop Shanahan

Emma Dempsey, Unionville

Shayla Johnson, Downingtown West

Dasani Peoples, Coatesville

Honorable Mention

Avon Grove: Jamie Perkins, Kaelin Sailey

Bishop Shanahan: Gianna DiMarco, Jacey Peturno, Shannon Donahue

Coatesville: Danae Ellzy, Neveyah Chester

Conestoga: Katharine Gay, Kate Galica

Downingtown East: Lauren Kent, Mary McFillin, Cass Denning

Downingtown West: Jess Wills, Jenna Young

Great Valley: Ashley Sullivan, Emily DuPont, Emma DeRobertis

Kennett: Gina Lusvardi, Ellie Matthews

Oxford: Cristina Fernandez, Anna Hampshire, Jaime Herrin

Unionville: Anna Iacocca, Alexia Brown, Casey Baughan

Villa Maria: Morgan Warley, Jackie Ford

West Chester East: Megan Merten, Mary Grace Kerns, Mikayla Kushner

West Chester Henderson: Molly Nanni, Emma Kleckner

West Chester Rustin: Sam Greer, Grace Shivers, Grace Plona

Westtown: Amaya Douglas, Lexi Brooks

Coach of the Year

ALEX VENARCHIK, Great Valley

Alex Venarchik is Chester County through and through.

He attended St. Agnes as a youth, then went to Bishop Shanahan High School and on to West Chester University. All three were never more than a mile or two away from his home in West Chester.

Now the head girls’ basketball coach at Great Valley, Venarchik just helped author one of the great seasons in program history. The 2020 Daily Local News Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year has deep local roots, so it should surprise no one that his coaching influences are a ‘who’s-who’ of local legends.

“I’ve been blessed with some great coaches and people in my life,” Venarchik aid. “There is a wealth of experience that I can rely on.”

The list starts with his high school coach, Vic Bruno; continues on with his college mentor, Dick DeLaney; and also includes stints as a high school assistant for guys like Damien Blair and Paul Girone.

“Coach Bruno still comes to my games, which is really cool,” Venarchik says. “That made an impression on me as to just how much he still cares. And I’m constantly on the phone with coach DeLaney talking X’s and O’s. He’s always been in my corner.”

Now the head coach at WCU, Blair gave Venarchik his first coaching job and he spent four seasons at Downingtown High School before taking over as the first boys’ head coach for two seasons at Downingtown East.

“Just last weekend I was on a video conference call with coach Blair and a few others and we were talking about ways to motivate.”

Finally, Venarchik spent a few seasons as an assistant under Girone, and together they revamped the Patriots girls program. Venarchik then took over and has been the head coach for 10 seasons.

“We will sit down and talk all the time,” he said, referring to Girone. “Paul knows the players on our team and he’ll throw out different ideas. We still use one of the defenses he used when I was an assistant to him.”

Everything seemed to come together this winter as Great Valley exceeded all expectations to go 23-5, which included an unbeaten mark against the rest of the Ches-Mont American. The Pats then advanced all the way to the District 5A title game and to the second round of the PIAA Playoffs.

“This season was quite a ride and I hope the girls realize how special it was,” he said.

“I think everybody – including myself to a degree – underestimated this group. Just looking at the question marks we had at the beginning of the season, we weren’t sure how the girls were going to come together.”

Great Valley started the season without point guard Ashley Sullivan, who was recovering from knee surgery. But the full team came together during the holidays, started rolling in January, and peaked in February.

“Mr. V (Venarchik) has really helped me to become a basketball player,” said star senior Tessa Liberatoscioli. “He is one of my favorite coaches.”

Girone had a team that won a few more games in the late 2000s. And Great Valley had a team in the late 1980’s that won a 3A District crown. But the 2019-20 Patriots registered a record and a district 1 run that puts this squad near the top of the school’s best ever.

“Over the years my coaching style has evolved,” Venarchik explained. “The female high school athlete is different now to what it was.

“The girls today have to know that you truly care about them. The boys tend to motivate themselves, and the girls do too. But when they really buy in to what you are coaching is when you can get it across to them that you are doing is in their best interest. If that happens, then girls will do everything for you.”

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