NAUGATUCK — After reaching the Naugatuck Valley League tournament championship game and finishing 19-5 last year, the Naugatuck girls basketball team won’t be sneaking up on anyone this season.
“We may have snuck up on a few teams early on,” said Naugatuck head coach Gail Cheney, who made a great first impression in her first year at the helm last season. “But that won’t happen this year. I think we had such diversity on the team that on any given night someone else would lead the way.”
The goals were simple last year: find some consistency on offense, qualify for the state tournament and hopefully make the NVL tournament. The Greyhounds exceeded those goals, making a run to the NVL title game that got the whole borough of Naugatuck excited as fans came out in droves to support the team.
Naugatuck enters this season needing to replace several key players lost to graduation, including point guard Alyana Sosa and center Bridget Rosikiewicz, who both earned All-Iron Division honors, and Alexis Woods and Alyssa Petersen, who provided the Greyhounds an inside presence.
Cheney built the team on the philosophy that players who excelled in practice would get a chance to start, and that created a competitive group of girls not content on settling into roles. Several younger players emerged, and will be key parts in turning Naugy into a contender again this season.
“The girls are really pumped about this season,” Cheney said. “We have a lot of experienced players back, and I will be looking for the freshmen to come in give us some quality minutes.”
A different player seemed to led the way each night last year, and that is the way things are shaping up for this season.
The Greyhounds will be led by a solid group of five seniors: All-Iron Division forward Hailey Deitelbaum, Shannon Burns, Mia Rotatori, Hannah Biondo and Sarah Wisniewski.
Juniors Brielle Behuniak, Hailey Russell and Alissa McNeil all have experience and can be a factor on the boards. Sophomore Alyssa Roberts came on as one of the up-and-coming players last season.
What has Cheney really excited about this season is a group of freshmen who can be impact players, including Kaylee Jackson, Julia Kropo and Sarah Macary.
“We have some things to work on,” Cheney said. “We graduated some talented players. I think Hailey (Deitelbaum) is an all-around player who can help us in the paint and Alyssa (Roberts) really showed she can bang on the boards.
“Mia (Rotatori) can bring the ball up for us and I think Sarah (Wisniewski) can help us a lot to take some of the pressure off. We had a successful fall league and it gave the girls a chance to play together. I’m cautiously optimistic about our chances this year and looking forward to the challenge.”
Naugatuck will start the season with a NVL championship game rematch against Sacred Heart on Dec. 11. The Greyhounds will finish out the first week of the season Dec. 14 at Oxford.