NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls basketball team heads into a new season with a new coach but with the same goal of reaching the postseason.
The Greyhounds went 7-13 last year and reached the first round of the state tournament under head coach Ron Plasky. Plasky, who coached the Greyhounds for one season, is now the athletic director at Pomperaug High School in Southbury.
Enter Gail Cheney.
Cheney, the former All-State Masuk player who went on to star for Fairfield University where she ended up as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,873 points, is the Greyhounds’ new head coach.
“I realize I’m the third coach in three years, but I think they have been playing together long enough where I feel there shouldn’t be too much of a transition period,” said Cheney, who coached at Oxford last season.
The Greyhounds are hoping some of Cheney’s scoring knowledge will rub off. Naugy scored in the 20s and was shutout in at least one quarter in six games last year. All those games ended up in the loss column.
“We work every day on shooting drills,” Cheney said. “It does take a good chunk out of our practice time, but the girls are working hard. A lot of teams in the NVL struggle in the shooting department, and hopefully we can find that consistency on offense to keep us competitive.”
Naugatuck has an experienced group of upperclassmen returning that is more than ready to move up the ladder in the NVL.
The Greyhounds are led by four seniors: Alyana Sosa, Alexis Woods, Bridget Rosikiewicz and Alyssa Peterson. Peterson had the past two seasons cut short by injuries.
“I’m happy to be back,” Peterson said. “I will probably be eased into it because the last five games will be more important than the first five games, and I want to make sure that I can be a strong contributor.”
The four seniors provide a lot of experience on the court. Add in juniors Hailey Deitelbaum, Mia Rotatori and Shannon Burns, and the Greyhounds are poised to take their game up a notch.
“I know we have a strong defense,” Sosa said. “But we can’t win games unless we can score points in all four quarters. If we continue to push the ball and score off layups, we should be OK.”
The Greyhounds have a few younger players in sophomores Brielle Behuniak, Hailey Russell and Alissa McNeil who have already contributed solid varsity minutes and give them depth off the bench.
Assistant coaches Sean Dunn and Karl Evangelista, who know the girls and can share that insight with Cheney, will help ease the transition to a new coach.
“Having a new coach is a change for sure,” Woods said. “But I just think it will give us a new perspective. We have had three coaches in the last three years and each of them has taught us something positive about the game.”
Even when they struggled to put the ball in the net last year, the Greyhounds’ defense kept them competitive. Naugatuck held teams in the 40s ten times last season, including their seven wins.
“If we continue to push ourselves in practice our defense has the ability to keep us in most games,” Rosikiewicz said. “We are going to be relying on that to put up a few more wins this season.”
The combination of experience and potential has Cheney hopeful about her first season leading the Greyhounds.
“Not only do we have experience in our upperclassmen but we do have a strong sophomore class and a few freshmen who I can call on to give us some quality minutes,” Cheney said. “I’m optimistic about what we can accomplish this season. We have a lot of potential, but it starts right with our first game. Sacred Heart is a very good team, and it can go one of two ways after that first game.”
The Greyhounds will find out where they are and where they need to be when they open the season at home on Dec. 12 against Sacred Heart. Naugatuck will finish out the first week of the season at home versus Oxford on Dec. 15.