NAUGATUCK — As the Naugatuck girls basketball team tips off its season this week, it will look to fill a void left by six seniors who graduated and capitalize on a unique combination of strengths — quickness and size.
Naugy coach Jodie Ruccio will have plenty of new options. While mostly inexperienced at the varsity level, this year’s team features many players who bring key skills to the court.
“We’re not looking to replace anyone individually,” Ruccio said. “It’s more of a collective effort.”
Ruccio said the team should be able to average the same number of points as last season. However, it will have to come from a group of players. This year’s team will not be able to rely on Jessica Webber, last year’s most consistent scoring threat.
“We had a go-to player on offense last year,” Ruccio said. “We don’t have that this year.”
The team will be more flexible. Ruccio said the team can go big or small—and either unit can change the pace of the game.
“We can go small, pick up the tempo and force the issue, or we can go big,” Ruccio said. “It’s a nice mix for us.”
Ruccio favored the idea of mixing and matching units against opponents.
In terms of experience, the Greyhounds will rely heavily on the two senior captains: Forward Renee Augustine and guard Michelle Troschler. Augustine, a varsity starter as a junior, is the only returner with legitimate varsity experience.
“Renee did a lot of the dirty work last year,” Ruccio said. “She’s going to be counted on more this year.”
Troschler, who is known for her outside5e shooting touch, averaged about 10 points per game on the junior varsity team last season. Also a soccer player, Troschler provide some toughness and leadership for the Hounds.
In the backcourt, Ruccio will call upon two players who saw limited varsity action last season—junior Lauren Piroscafo and sophomore Stephanie Lima. The Greyhounds will need Piroscafo to get to the basket and score points, while Lima will be responsible for ball-handling and running the point.
Junior Amber Kuczenski, who stands 5-foot-8, can play both guard and forward. Kuczenski saw time on the varsity level at the end of last year.
Three sophomores will give Naugy some size and depth in the frontcourt. Coaching staff have noticed different traits in Amy Dietz (5-foot-10), Felicia Gullota (5-foot-9) and Brianna Ritter (5-foot-10). Dietz cleans up around the basket, Gullota rebounds strongly and Ritter sets screens to free up shooters.
Due to lack of experience, Ruccio said there will be a learning curve once the season is underway. Ruccio expects hiccups when it comes to executing on offense and defense.
“We have to win the second time around,” said Ruccio on her expectations. “We have to make adjustments, learn from mistakes and take advantage of film sessions.”
Ruccio, along with her assistant coaches Karl Evangilista, Sean Dunn and former Naugy standout Heather Yablonski, have focused on several key points early in the season. For the Greyhounds to be successful, Ruccio said Naugy will have to hit free throws, limit turnovers and play well on defense.
“We need to be holding teams to 35 to 40 points for us to be successful,” Ruccio said.
Naugy will be tested right away. After the Torrington game on Wednesday, the Greyhounds will host Sacred Heart this Friday at 7 p.m.