Girl’s basketball teams hit hardwood
Last season, several girls basketball sides in the Dispatch area earned playoffs berths following a successful regular season.
Few were able to sustain a deep run in the playoffs, and with the new season in its infancy, local teams are looking to build off of last season’s success and make a deeper run in sectionals.
Oneida projects as one of the favorites this season in the Tri-Valley Pioneer League following a trip to the second round of the Section III Class B playoffs that ended in a five-point loss to Utica Notre Dame. After finishing second last year with an 8-4 league record, two games behind Utica Notre-Dame, ninth-year coach Katie Nestler’s side returns five starters in Julianna Cavanagh, Lauren Skibitski, Anna Hood, Gabby Cafalone and Sydney Lusher.
With her five starters back, Nestler is looking to lean on the team’s experience and athletic backcourt to push the tempo and wear down Oneida’s Tri-Valley foes. The veteran squad will also receive a boost in the form of newcomers Sophia Skinner, Hanna Kimball, and Jessie Russ.
Like Oneida, cross-county rival Vernon-Verona-Sherrill enjoyed a playoff bid last season, topping Canastota in the opening round of the sectionals before falling to Bishop Grimes in the sec--
ond round. Seven year varsity coach Randy Thomas returns three starters: junior guard/forward combo Alexa Kiser; senior guard McKenna Berry; and senior forward Emily Rossi. The three veterans will look to gel with an exciting group of players that have been called up from junior varsity as the Red Devils look to build on last year’s 5-7 Tri-Valley record. Freshman Morgan Brewer and Anna Rossi, along with senior Emily D’Agostino are players to watch on a side looking to capitalize on its depth, speed, and defense to make a deeper playoff push.
In the OHSL Liberty American League, the Chittenango Bears have set their sight on a sectional push after earning a firstround bye and playoff bid last season before falling to Cazenovia by two points in the second round. Second year coach Kassie Kleine returns starters Sydney Bennett and Ally Shoemaker from last season’s 12- 9 squad in a league stocked with four other teams that finished the season with a record above the .500 mark: Bishop Ludden, Bishop Grimes, Homer, and Christian Brothers Academy.
A fewmiles east on Route 5, coach Vinny Salamone and his Canastota Raiders are looking to improve each time out and make the sectionals like they did in 201617. Senior April Dabrowski and junior Kacey Cashel return to Canastota’s starting lineup as the Raiders prepare for another season in the CSC-1 with the likes of Holland Patent, SherburneEarlville and Adirondack. Freshman Jessica Evans is a newcomer to watch for a Canastota team that finished 0-8 in league play but 9-12 overall last season.
In southern Madison County, Stockbridge Valley is looking to repeat as Central County League champion after going undefeated in league play last year and finishing with a 19-2 overall record which included a trip to the Section III Class D semifinals. First year coach Jay Lehmann’s Cougars have an interesting composition, with two seniors, two sophomores, four freshman and an eighthgrader rounding out the roster as Stockbridge Valley prepares its title defense. Senior Ashleigh Staudt and eighth-grader Jillian Ja- cobs will reprise their starting roles, while sophomore Kelly Greene and senior Alaina Beanewill transition into the starting lineup.
The Hamilton Emerald Knights are beginning a youth movement for the 2017-18 campaign with a team makeup consisting of a single senior, three sophomores, and six freshman. Sixth-year head coach GaryWeeks will look to capitalize on his team’s athleticism to make up for the lack of experience on a side that returns Lauren La Ruffa and Beth Belanger. Newcomers Beth Dawkins, Ashley La Ruffa, Emma Basher, Kerrigan Kelly, and Lauren Rodriguez join an Emerald Knight team that finished 8-13 overall last season and 2-6 in CSC Division IV play. Divisional play may be turbulent for Hamilton with heavyweights Oriskany and New York Mills returning a number of veteran players and a loaded Waterville joining the league.
Oneida’s Lauren Skibitski (20) dribbles the ball as New Hartford’s Taylor Torchia (4) defends during a 2016-17contest.
Stockbridge Valley’s Jillian Jacobs advances the ball during a 201617game.
Vernon-Verona-Sherrill’s Alexa Kiser (21) brings the ball up the court against Oneida during their game in Oneida on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017.