NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck girls basketball coach Jodie Ruccio always seems to know what buttons to push to get the most out of her team. That has been evident in a couple of shocking games against Torrington that has left Red Raiders coach Mike Fritch a little leery whenever his team faces Naugy.
Last season, the Greyhounds fell on hard times, going 3-17 with a team that lacked varsity experience. Only a few players had seen varsity time and the season was a work in progress.
Ruccio set a team goal of keeping opponents between 30 to 40 points a game in order for the Greyhounds to remain competitive. The defense, for the most part, got the job done but with each game the offense struggled to maintain consistency.
The focus for the ‘Hounds this season is to give a little offensive help to All-Copper senior shooting guard Lauren Piroscafo, who scored 15 points per game last season en route to playing in the first Naugatuck Valley League All-Star game.
Ruccio surrounds herself with a bevy of assistant coaches: junior varsity coach Karl Evangelista, freshman coach Sean Dunn, and assistant coaches Kara (Sheedy) Caron, Stephanie Escobar and Heather Yablonski.
“If going 3-17 isn’t enough to motivate you, I don’t know what is,” Ruccio said. “We all went to work in the offseason to get us back on track. I know the girls are anxious to see improvement especially on offense. We don’t want to be a one-dimensional team always looking for Lauren every time down the floor. We need to develop some consistency on offense and have a few more options going to the basket.”
That will begin with senior point guard Carli Pelliccia and senior forward Amber Kuczenski, who will need to set the tone under the boards.
“We are looking for lot more offensive production,” Piroscafo said. “So far in scrimmages we have seen that developing.
“It’s starting to come together for us,” Kuczenski said. “Everyone is working hard to turn this around.”
The experience gained last year at the varsity level will produce a more settled team down the stretch. The Greyhounds found themselves in several games last year that fell apart in the final minutes as they dropped six games by single digits.
Junior guard Stephanie Lima will be looked on to score as Pelliccia works on distribution.
“I think the biggest challenge for us is the change at point guard moving Carli to the point and putting Stephanie at the three spot,” Ruccio said. “That should give us a few more options on offense and keep us from becoming a one-dimensional team.”
“It’s a challenge,” Pelliccia said. “But I got a little experience last year bringing the ball up and I’m ready to step into this role. I think the biggest advantage for us will be the sophomores stepping up and providing depth on offense and defense.”
The ‘Hounds will also have a four-player forward rotation of Kuczenski and juniors Amy Deitz, Felicia Gullotta and Sydney Cotto.
Naugatuck has a few talented young sophomores who could make a difference down the stretch. Kayla Rotatori, Angie Piccirillo and Jess Butler have all looked like they are ready for the challenge during the preseason scrimmages.
“I’m very optimistic about the season,” Ruccio said. “If we execute throughout the game we won’t be in the position to worry about trying to get it done down the stretch. The key will be to stay out of foul trouble and take care of the ball. We had games with 20 turnovers last year. We need to cut that in half if we expect to remain competitive.”
Naugatuck opens the season on Dec. 7 at Crosby before its home opener on Dec. 9 against Torrington.