‘Hounds to lean on speed, defense

Naugatuck senior Jessica Butler runs off a screen set by fellow senior Christina Batista (1) on assistant coach Heather Yablonski during a drill at practice Dec. 3. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Naugatuck senior Jessica Butler runs off a screen set by fellow senior Christina Batista (1) on assistant coach Heather Yablonski during a drill at practice Dec. 3. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls basketball team is hard at work preparing for the 2013-14 season under head coach Jodie Ruccio.

The Greyhounds fell on hard times last season, dropping six of seven games early on, but rebounded to win seven of the last 10 to qualify for the state tournament.

Naugatuck will be at a height disadvantage this season and will need to rely on speed and defense to remain in the hunt for another postseason appearance. The Greyhounds will be without 5-foot-11 Amy Dietz, 5-foot-10 Felicia Gullotta and 5-foot-8 Stephanie Lima, who controlled the action in the paint last season.

“We have a lot of soccer players on this team so we come into the season in great physical shape,” Ruccio said. “The biggest thing will be rebounding as our tallest girl is just 5-foot-8 in senior forward Christina Batista. So we are going to have to keep teams off the boards and rely on our speed and defense to keep us in games.”

Naugatuck will be led by senior captains Batista, Jessica Butler, Emma Colucci and Angelina Piccirillo, a two-time captain who earned All-Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division honors last season at point guard.

Sophomore Nicole Boucher will round out the starting five and will move from guard to forward to help Naugatuck battle on the boards.

“Batista will be our battler on the boards,” Ruccio said. “Piccirillo played AAU ball over the summer and returns as an All-Copper Division guard. I’m real confident in her ability to step up and be our go-to girl. Boucher is working twice as hard as I’ve seen her work last year and she is catching on real quick to a new position and will help us on the boards. Right now we are working on completing the rotation and we have a lot of girls who gained valuable experience last year.”

Another key for Ruccio is ball control.

“We will need to keep our turnover rate at around 10 or 12,” she said. “Anything more than that and we will struggle. We can’t turn the ball over or teams in this league will make you pay for it.”

Seniors Michaela Pruchnicki, Jessica Case, Christina Jando and Jill Monck will vie for playing time. Juniors Taylor Campos, Stefanie Flores and Lauren Burns will make their presence felt as solid defenders.

“Campos is really playing well, is one of our strongest defenders and she can take it outside with a nice jump shot,” Ruccio said. “Flores wasn’t even in our talks until the preseason started and has really come on. She has been one of our pleasant surprises.”

Naugatuck girls basketball captains, from left, Christina Batista, Emma Colucci, Jessica Butler and Angelina Piccirillo will lead the Greyhounds this season. –CONTRIBUTED

Naugatuck girls basketball captains, from left, Christina Batista, Emma Colucci, Jessica Butler and Angelina Piccirillo will lead the Greyhounds this season. –CONTRIBUTED

Sophomore Jackie Aronin will be the spark off the bench that Ruccio will be looking for as her speed and defensive skills will play into the Greyhounds’ game plan.

“Aronin will be a key player off the bench, adding to our defensive strength and score a few points as well,” Ruccio said. “We will need Colucci to look for her shot to add to our offense.”

Ruccio hopes her team will be better as the winter progresses.

“We have always been a better second-half team, once we study the films and learn the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents,” Ruccio said. “But we are going to need to come out and catch teams early and get off to a good start.”

Naugatuck will be tested early as it opens the season Dec. 11 at Holy Cross. Naugy will face more road games at Crosby on Dec. 13 and Kaynor Tech on Dec. 16 before opening up at home Dec. 18 against Derby.

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