NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck girls basketball team has plenty to look forward to this season, led by its super six seniors. The Greyhounds come into the season wanting to show the Naugatuck Valley League that last year’s upset over Torrington in the first round of the Class L state tournament was no fluke.
Naugatuck entered that contest 9-11, seeded 28th and having been outscored by a whopping, 143-62 margin in two losses to the Red Raiders during the regular season. But when it counted most, the Hounds stunned the fifth-seeded, 20-2 Raiders in T-town by a 58-54 margin and moved on to the second round of the state tournament.
The victory went a long way toward establishing a little confidence coming into this season, especially since the Hounds lost only three seniors and one starter from last year’s squad.
Admittedly, that lone starter was a key one.
“Losing Debbie DaSilva is a big void to fill,” Naugatuck head coach Jodie Ruccio said. “Not only was she a consistent rebounder, she took the ball out and was a ferocious defender.”
Defense will be the key for this year’s Greyhounds; DaSilva also took size with her, and NHS will be challenged in the paint. Last year, Naugatuck held opponents to fewer than 60 points in 18 of 21 games.
“Defense will be the only way to see victories this season,” Ruccio concluded. “We are a small team, and we will need to use our quickness and a tight defense to keep us in games.”
One aspect of the Greyhounds that will not go unnoticed is the offensive presence of three-time all-NVL guard Jessica Webber. The senior captain led the league in scoring with 19.6 points per game last winter and is 75 points away from becoming the ninth Naugatuck girl to join the 1,000-point club.
“A player like Jessica is a coach’s dream,” Ruccio said. “She can break the press and when the game is on the line, you can count on her to get it done. But we are going to have to have a few more players to step up when Jessica is double- and triple-teamed this season.”
One of the options will be three-point threat senior Julia Longo, who put up 10.9 points per game last season. Seniors Alexis Granahan, a defensive specialist who put up four points per game, and Danielle Charette, who will take on low post responsibilities and threw down five per game, can also be viable options.
“We need Julia to take her share of shots so it’s not all on Jessica,” Ruccio added. “Alexis showed she can score important points, and Danielle has a winning attitude, after four years of playing soccer. Charette was the NVL tournament MVP in soccer, along with Alexis and Julia in volleyball and softball have that winning mentality.”
If the Garnet and Grey need a little instant offense, they need to look no farther than sophomore Lauren Piroscafo off the bench. Junior Renee Augustine will see an increased role in the paint, along with center Melissa Miller and guard Kristen Myers, both seniors.
Also getting playing time will be sophomore Amber Kuczenski and freshman Stephanie Lima, as the Greyhounds look to qualify for the state and the NVL tournaments.
“I’m realistic,” Ruccio said. “We won’t go undefeated. But if we work hard and play our game, we can be competitive in every game. There’s not one game on our schedule that I feel is not winnable.
“If we prepare ourselves like we did against Torrington, we can win 10, 12, 15 games. I don’t set goals as far as wins and losses go, but we can be very successful if we put our minds to it.”