Little problem hasn't stopped Hilltoppers.
Being small in size hasn't stopped Worcester Academy's girls from accomplishing big things on the hardwood this winter.
A big accomplishment, and a harbinger of things to come, occurred in December when the Hilltoppers won the annual Blackburn Tournament. Since then, WA has continued to win, beginning this week with a 15-3 record - not bad for a team that went 10-13 last year.
"It's been a great year so far, much better than we expected," coach Molly Dullea said. "We have no height and we're one of the smallest teams in our conference. But we've worked hard to do the little things, and the girls have bought into it.
"One of our strengths is running - other teams can't keep up with us."
Dullea said a key to the team's running, in addition to quick athletes, is the fact that the players have a knack for knowing where each other will be. This is especially helpful in fast-break situations. Also, being small and quick helps WA on defense, most notably in the area of ball pressure.
"Our individual defense has really improved and that's a credit to the kids," Dullea said. "They have a new attitude this year. They've become a unit, they play for each other."
Junior point guard Lydia Vital leads the defense and excels at nonstop pressure. She brings speed and tenacity to the defensive end and can score. Fellow guard Candace Andrews, a senior, is athletic and the type who makes plays when needed. She is also a team leader.
Junior 5-foot-10 forward Carly Heman of Princeton has been a valuable contributor on the boards. Dullea noted that Heman, who has good jumping ability and timing, has made a nice transition to the inside after playing mostly on the perimeter as a sophomore.
Sutton's Gina Doyle, a junior guard, contributes several baskets each game and causes turnovers. She has a knack for being in the right spot, Dullea said. Meanwhile, junior center Shaniqua Shaw of Worcester has a spot of her own - the post. She sports good moves down low and can rebound and defend.
Senior guard Julia Piwowarski of Webster, a soccer standout, provides leadership and enthusiasm - "the emotional rock of our team," Dullea said. Leicester's Abby Peltier, a junior forward, is a pure shooter with a high basketball IQ.
Freshman forward Lexi Hackett of Charlton has been a big surprise. Hackett shows no hesitancy or freshman nerves, Dullea said, and is a spark plug off the bench. Hackett has been the team's top scorer several times.
Dullea, in her second year, is assisted by Wayne Bolden.
Captains lead Valley Tech
Combining capable senior leadership with an ability to get the job done under pressure often leads to good things, and Valley Tech's girls can vouch for that.
"I am fortunate to have three tough, hard-working, talented senior captains, and a team that's done well under pressure," coach Brittney Kahler said. "A team strength is our experience and knowledge of the game. Most of the girls have been playing together for years, and understand game situations better this year.
"It has also been fun since the girls push the ball, but have also been successful in the half court. Lastly, we pride ourselves on being a strong defensive team, and will always believe that the offense stems from good defense."
The Beavers' defense has allowed the fewest points per game in the Colonial Athletic League (32.7). They have been winning, too, improving to 17-2 overall with a 44-32 triumph over Nashoba Tech Tuesday. Valley Tech is tied with Main South for first in the league, both teams at 14-1.
The captains, coachable and influential to the underclassmen, are guard Kelly Ney, forward Kaitlin Hannan and guard Meghan Ferschke.
Ney is a triple threat who can shoot, drive and pass. The aggressive Hannan is a 5-6 post threat who plays like a 6-footer. She is a good defender and hustles all game. Ferschke gives Valley Tech good rebounding from the backcourt. She boxes out, takes care of the ball, and consistently plays hard.
Junior center Ashley Thompson is the leading scorer (13.1). She makes good use of her athleticism and is a defensive force in the middle. Besides posting up well, the versatile Thompson can dribble, drive and shoot. Sophomore point guard Megan McFadden passes well, controls the floor, and can score (9.8) and defend.
Kahler added that the Beavers are fortunate to have younger players who are willing to learn and improve.
Sophomore Domenique Silvestri, a post player, anticipates well, and has good moves. Junior point guard Lauren Fraine can shoot and drive.
Junior guard Giana Michelson is another standout shooter who uses her athleticism at both ends. Junior guard Savannah D'Ambra and junior forwards Sam Giffen and Shannon O'Toole are first-year players who solidify the bench.
Hats off to Parker Charter School sophomore Katie Williamson for knocking down seven 3-pointers in leading her team to a 54-50 overtime victory over Monty Tech on Tuesday.
Parker hit two treys on OT and finished with a game-high 25 points. She has made 30 3-pointers this season and averages 9.8 points per game.
Contact Craig Holt at email@example.com.
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