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Main Line girls basketball squads looking to net glory this winter

The Main Line high school girls’ basketball scene featured many standout teams last winter. Archbishop Carroll (24-6) won both the Catholic League and PIAA District 12 5A title, then advanced all the way to the PIAA 5A state championship finals. Shipley (22-4) captured the Friends’ School League tournament title and advanced to the PAISAA state championship finals. Two Main Line AACA teams won district titles – Villa Maria Academy (26-5) captured the PIAA District 1 5A championship and Sacred Heart (17-9) captured its third consecutive PIAA District 1 2A championship.
Here’s a look at the Main Line high school girls’ basketball teams as they open play for the 2019-2020 season:

Agnes Irwin
Head coach: Andrea Carter, third year.
Last year’s record: 4-19 overall.
Key returnees: 5-8 senior guard Katie Anderson, 5-11 junior center/forward Paige Crowther, 5-6 senior guard Amelia Leyden, 5-8 junior forward/guard Caroline Vauclain.
Others to watch: 5-7 junior guard/forward Brynn Gallagher, 5-7 sophomore guard/forward Belle Fusco.
Lost to graduation: forward/center Taryn Kelly, guard Mary Grace Miller.
Strengths: The Owls are returning a 1,000-point scorer in Katie Anderson. “We have a very experienced roster of juniors and seniors – there is a ton of leadership,” said Carter. “Our team is big and fast. We rebound the ball well, and can speed teams up defensively.”
Outlook: Carter said, “We will be a strong team if we commit to playing together and rebounding the ball. We lost our three-point shooter, so we are having trouble stretching the floor. This will make it a bit easier for teams to defend us. We are hoping to have some underclassman step up, which we believe they can, and hopefully fill that void.”

Archbishop Carroll
Head coach: Renie Shields.
Last year’s record: 24-6, captured Catholic League and PIAA District 12 5A titles, advanced to the PIAA 5A state championship final.
Key returnees: 5-10 senior guard Erin Sweeney, 5-8 junior guard Karli Dougherty, 5-7 sophomore guard Grace O’Neill, 5-10 senior guard Hope Syron.
Lost to graduation: guard Harlem Jennings (averaged 9 ppg and 4 rpg last year), Mary deSimone.
Outlook: The state finalists have a couple of standout returning players in Sweeney (a first team All-Catholic League selection who averaged 20 ppg and 5 rpg last year) and O’Neill (averaged 9 ppg, 4 rpg and 2 spg last year). Shields sees the Patriots’ biggest strength as their teamwork on offense and defense, and noted, “We need to replace the offense and defensive presence of Harlem and Mary.”

Baldwin School
Head coach: John Bernhardt.
Last year’s record: 9-13 overall, 4-8 Inter-Ac.
Key returnees: 5-4 senior point guard Alex Loomis, 6-1 junior center Anajah Brown, 5-11 junior forward Rani Bleznak, 5-10 junior forward Taylor Levinson, 5-9 sophomore forward Gabi Pritzker, 5-4 sophomore guard Kaya Weiser.
Others to watch: 5-9 freshman forward Grace Colucci, 5-5 freshman forward Grace Brunetto, 5-5 freshman guard Megan Adelman, 5-8 8th-grader forward Allie Weiser.
Lost to graduation: guards Lauren Bracken and Olivia Tornetta, forward Simi Bleznak.
Strengths: Bernhardt said, “Our height and length will create matchup problems. On top of that, we have a lot of experience coming back this year, players who have played in tough/big games. Six of our top eight girls return from last year’s team.”
Outlook: “I think the biggest key to our success is finding our offensive identity, toughness, limiting possessions, and not allowing ourselves to get sped up during games,” said Bernhardt. “In regard to the biggest challenge we will have to overcome, we have been hit by the injury bug a little bit. We will be missing Gabi Pritzker for a large portion of the year, if not the entire year, due to a knee injury, which is a big blow for us. On top of that, we have three players coming off concussion injuries as well. We also have a lot of new faces who are still learning our offense and what we strive to do defensively.”

Barrack Hebrew
Head coach: Chris Corcoran, fourth year.
Last year’s record: 11-8 overall, 4-4 Tri-County League.
Key returnees: 5-2 senior guard Sophia Shapiro, 5-7 junior forward Lexi Schachter, 5-8 junior forward Sarah Miller, 5-3 sophomore guard Dayna Felger, 5-2 sophomore guard Jessie Singer, 5-3 freshman guard Eden Singer.
Others to watch: 5-6 senior forward GiGi Kahlon, 5-4 junior guard Izzy Jacobson, 5-6 freshman guard Talia Erlbaum, 5-7 freshman forward Jenna Ufberg.
Lost to graduation: guard Yasi Stein, forward Elianna Israel.
Strengths: “We are a deep team and will go 12 deep into the rotation,” said Corcoran. “Although we lack size, our quickness should be an advantage.”
Outlook: “This year we are playing in both the Tri-County Independent School Conference and the Penn-Jersey League, and we hope to contend in both leagues,” said Corcoran. “We play a very tough non-league schedule – Baldwin, Agnes Irwin, and Smith Hebrew School in Rockville, Md. – that I hope will help prepare us for our league opponents.”

Head coach: AJ Thompson, second year.
Last year’s record: 6-16 overall, 2-14 Central League.
Key returnees: 6-0 senior forward Katharine Gay, 5-8 senior forward Annie Nikolic, 5-8 junior forward Julia Morgan, 5-8 sophomore guard Katie Faith.
Others to watch: 5-9 freshman guard Kate Galica, 5-8 freshman guard Gabby Ridder.
Lost to graduation: guard Hailey Klinger, forwards Ava Eaton and Emmie Rycyzyn,
Strengths: “Our inside game is going to be something we lean on heavily, especially early in the season, as that is where we have the most experience returning,” said Thompson.
Outlook: “Our season will largely depend on how well our new players adjust to the varsity game – we know we are going to see a lot of pressure on our young inexperienced guards and how well they handle that will determine how well we do,” said Thompson. “This season will have its share of growing pains, but in the long run this group will be better off for it.”

Episcopal Academy
Head coach: Chuck Simmonds, 16th year.
Last year’s record: 8-18 overall, 6-6 Inter-Ac.
Key returnees: 5-6 senior guard Cara Harty, 5-11 senior forward Rae Keffer-Scharpf.
Others to watch: 5-8 sophomore guard Riley Cassidy, 5-8 sophomore guard Amanda Purcell, 5-6 sophomore guard Bella Piselli, 5-9 junior guard/forward Allie Sillo, 6-0 junior forward Caroline McCreary.
Lost to graduation: guard Olivia Dirks (playing lacrosse at Penn State).
Strengths: Simmonds said, “We’re hoping to use good team defense and offense to create good opportunities, and we have more depth than before.”
Outlook: “I’m hoping to find players that give consistent scoring, and for guards to step up as good defenders,” said Simmonds. “Our posts have the potential to get a lot better.”

Friends’ Central
Head coach: Phil Annas, 21st year.
Last year’s record: 15–10 overall, 4-4 Friends’ Schools League.
Key returnees: 5-6 sophomore guard Aminah Alwyn, 5-6 sophomore guard/forward Erin Beck, 5-6 senior guard/forward Emma Malone, 5-7 sophomore forward Jai Smith, 5-7 sophomore guard/forward Madison Smith.
Others to Watch: 5-4 freshman guard Sanaa Garrett, 6-1 freshman center/forward Amani Savage.
Lost to graduation: Raanee Smith (University of Colorado), Zoe Shoemaker (Lehigh University).
Outlook: With only one senior, Emma Malone, on the roster, Annas is excited to have youth and enthusiasm in the line-up. Losing co-captains Raanee Smith and Zoe Shoemaker from last year will leave big leadership roles to fill. “There are a lot of young and talented players in this group and their development should be exciting to watch,” said Annas, who is hoping the Phoenix will be competing in the Friends’ Schools League play-offs in February.

Haverford High
Head coach: Lauren Pellicane, third year.
Last year’s record: 17-9 overall.
Key returnees: 5-5 senior guard Katie Redding, 5-7 junior guard Chiara MacGillivray, 5-9 junior guard/forward Addison Brodnik.
Others to watch: 6-0 freshman forward Caroline Dotsey, 5-5 sophomore guard Maddie Williams, 5-8 sophomore guard Emma Rowland, 5-11 freshman forward Mollie Carpenter.
Lost to graduation: guard Erin Doherty (Catholic University), forward Lindsey Lane (Chestnut Hill College), forward Sara Walsh (University of Scranton), guard Erin Kelly (Immaculata University).
Outlook: “After losing nine seniors including the bulk of our offensive production to graduation, we are facing a rebuilding effort,” said Pellicane. “This will be a real transitional year for us as we are an unproven group. We lack experience as a whole but have a group of competitors that are eager to learn and play hard each and every day. Our young talent will have an opportunity to develop and contribute right away.”

Lower Merion
Head coach: Erin Laney, first year (coming from Southern Lehigh High School in Center Valley, Pa.)
Last year’s record: 4-18 overall, 1-15 Central League.
Key returnees: 5-10 junior forward Bridget McCann, 5-6 junior point guard Ellie O’Keefe, 5-7 junior guard Sophia Dowdall, 5-10 sophomore forward/center Emma Cloud.
Others to watch: 5-3 junior point guard Phoebe Mennis, 5-3 junior guard Alexis Hunter, 5-7 junior guard Eliana Leach.
Strengths: Laney said, “We will have a deep bench with many athletes. We are capable of playing fast and can hopefully put up several points in the span of a minute. Our team is returning many players who received varsity minutes last year, so experience should be a positive factor. No pressure from last year continuing into this year.”
Outlook: “Our depth has to be our biggest key to success,” said Laney. “We have multiple girls that will be getting minutes at each position, so we should be fresh for the entire 32 minutes of game play. Our biggest challenge will be putting the ball in the basket. We will make the moves and take the shots, but consistency might be a challenge.”

Merion Mercy
Head coach: John Richardson, first year.
Last year’s record: 3-18 overall, 1-11 AACA.
Key returnees: 5-4 senior guard Kiersten Krause, 5-11 senior forward Julia Kawczynski, 5-4 sophomore guard Maura Dougherty, 5-3 sophomore guard Francesca Scarpone.
Others to watch: 5-11 sophomore forward Lucy Curry, 5-8 sophomore guard Erin Devlin, 5-8 sophomore guard Monica Marenda.
Strengths: “Our coaching staff has been impressed by our team’s focus, energy, and attitude so far in practices,” said Richardson. “Our returning seniors have shown great leadership to help our younger players understand what we are trying to build at Merion. We believe we have good depth and athleticism throughout our program, so we want to take advantage of that, with strong defense and playing with pace on the offensive end.”
Outlook: “Our players are excited for the season and building for long term success for Merion Mercy basketball,” said Richardson. “We’ve chosen ‘Better Together’ as our goal in order to get better every day and work as a team to be successful. Our initial focus is on being a strong and physical defensive team. We need to learn to execute on the offensive end, so that we can compete every time we step on the floor against the teams in our league.”

Notre Dame
Head coach: Lauren Thomer, second year.
Last year’s record: 17-7 overall, tied for second in Inter-Ac, PAISAA quarterfinalist.
Key returnees: 5-6 sophomore guard Maeve McErlane, 5-5 senior guard Allie Lynch, 5-3 junior guard Izzy Casale, 5-5 sophomore guard Julia Dever.
Others to watch: 5-10 freshman forward Katie Halligan.
Lost to graduation: point guard Mandy McGurk (playing at Penn), guard Maggie Pina (playing for Boston University).
Strengths: According to Thomer, quickness, athleticism and defense.
Outlook: “We graduated four starters and our senior center just tore her ACL in our first scrimmage. We are young, small and mighty. We have quite a few newcomers who will play a lot of minutes for us, and our young players will have to continue to step up. The biggest key to our success is how quickly our newcomers mesh with our returning players and how quickly everyone gels and steps up. Our biggest challenge will be who will step up and fill the scoring void – our graduating seniors collectively scored almost 40 points per game.”

Head coach: Mark Jordan, 13th year (was head coach at Sacred Heart Academy for 11 years).
Last year’s record: 20-7 overall, 11-5 Central League.
Key returnees: 5-10 senior forward Ellie Mueller (scored her 1,000th career point last year), 5-7 junior guard Brienne Williams, 5-6 senior guard Julia Rigolizzo, 5-9 junior forward Cierra Hopson.
Other to watch: 5-6 senior guard Caitlin Higgins, 5-6 senior guard Kathryn Tague, 5-5 senior guard Jax Slinkard, 5-8 junior forward Margaret Mooney, 5-7 junior guard Sally Austen, 5-8 junior forward MK Colleran.
Key losses: Holly Holtsberg and Audrey Rosenblum (graduated), Missy Massimino (knee injury). “Missy was our glue girl who kept us all on the same page,” said Jordan.
Strengths: Team speed, and the returning duo of Mueller (17.0 ppg last year) and Williams (10.3 ppg and 38 treys last year).
Outlook: Jordan said, “The Raiders will lean on Mueller and Williams early and hope that new girls getting major varsity minutes for the first time mesh together as the year progresses. Rigolizzo and Hopson are athletic Division 1 lacrosse players that have varsity experience and will help lead the team as well. The team looks to improve as the year progresses, and they have the ability to be a factor in the league and district playoffs.”

Sacred Heart Academy
Head coach: Zach Shuler, 14th year.
Last year’s record: 17-9 overall, 2-5 AACA.
Key returnees: 5-6 senior guard Kayleigh Doyle, 5-11 senior forward Carina Fichera, 5-8 senior guard Amanda Heilmann, 5-8 sophomore guard/forward Ainsley Davis, 5-4 junior guard Mary Lauren Franz.
Others to watch: 5-4 sophomore guard Bella O’Toole, 5-8 sophomore guard/forward Kathryn Gallagher, 5-7 freshman guard/forward Emily McKenna, 5-3 sophomore guard Kyra Santora, 5-2 sophomore guard Abby Braun.
Lost to graduation: forward Kyra Quigley (led team in points, rebounds and blocks – now playing for University of Scranton), forward Sami Smith, guard Caitlin Hughes, guard/forward Liz Franz, guard Dani Santora (playing lacrosse at Hofstra), guard Jaycee Webster.
Strengths: According to Shuler, the Lions’ strengths are defense and point guard play.
Outlook: “Our keys to a successful year will be our ability to play as a team and manufacture offense off of turnovers,” said Shuler. “We are hoping our tough league schedule will help us prepare for another district run. We are looking forward to the challenge of competing for a district title after graduating six key players from last season.”

Head coach: Sean Costello, 10th year.
Last year’s record: 22-4.
Key returnees: 5-6 junior point guard Sanaa Redmond, 6-0 junior forward Olivia Joseph, 5-11 sophomore guard/forward Lauryn Redcross.
Others to watch: 5-8 junior guard/forward Kahlia Bailey.
Lost to graduation: Anna Camden (Penn State), Lauren Ross (Saint Joseph’s), Kate Scutt, Elizabeth Talluto, Jaz Nkala.
Strengths: According to Costello, defense, rebounding and team chemistry.
Outlook: “As a team, every player has an elevated role from last year,” said Costello. “Having graduated four starters, all of our players will be asked to contribute at a high level. Our team has a strong understanding of our style of play and how they can contribute individually to our collective success. We will defend hard and push the ball on offense.”

Villa Maria
Head coach: Kathy McCartney, 31st year.
Last year’s record: 26-5 overall, 12-3 AACA.
Key returnees: 6-1 senior forward Paige Lauder, 6-0 senior forward Maddy Ryan, 5-8 senior guard Morgan Warley, 5-8 senior guard Myla Warley, 5-8 senior forward Jackie Ford.
Others to watch: 5-2 junior guard Caroline Kirby, 5-3 junior guard Carina Chieffalo, 5-2 junior guard Peyton Tague, 5-6 junior guard Ally Trebelev, 5-8 junior forward Faith Iacone.
Key losses: Abby Walheim, Julia Samar.
Strengths: “Our experience is our biggest strength,” said McCartney. “That, coupled with our overall size and athleticism, should make this a fun group to watch.”
Outlook: McCartney said, “We are looking to again be a play-off team in the competitive AACA. and then to compete for a district, and eventually, a state title.”

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