Spring Ford is team to beat in PAC this year
Defending champion Spring-Ford is the team to beat in the PAC this winter
Sophomore guard Lucy Olsen (1) and Spring-Ford are the defending Pioneer Athletic Conference champions and are the early favorites to repeat. Learn more about the Rams and the rest of the area’s teams with our team-by-team preview on
BOYERTOWN Head coach: Jason Bieber, 10th season Last year’s record/accomplishments: 7-6 PAC, 11-15 overall, PAC semifinals, District 1-6A playoffs
Players to watch: Sierra Landes, Sr., G; Amber Marburger, Jr., G; Julia Smith, Jr., G; Avery Sweisfort, Jr., F; Ashley Kapp, So., G.
Outlook: Two years removed from winning a PIAA title, the Bears don’t face an impossible encore this winter. Instead, a junior-heavy group will lean on its outside shooting as Boyertown chases a winning record and a return to the PAC and District 1 postseason. “We are a very good 3-point shooting team. Our speed will cause teams some matchup problems,” coach Jason Bieber said. They’ll have to replace All-Area first team guard Kylie Webb (Salisbury), who became the go-to player last year after the departure of all-time leading scorer Abby Kapp (Bucknell). Others will have to step into that role with guard Julia Smith a candidate after being an All-Area honorable mention last year. “The team must improve on defense and rebounding,” Bieber said. “When all players fill their role we have a lot of success.” It will take that for the Bears to maintain the elevated standards of the program in 2018-19.
DANIEL BOONE Head coach: Kristen Marcinko, 2nd season Last year’s record: 0-10 Berks I, 5-17 overall
Players to watch: Skylar Emory, Sr., G/F; Courtney Gabbett, Sr., G; Olivia Cozzone, Sr., G; Autumn Becker, Sr., G; Rachel Kelly, Sr., F; Jenna Heasley, So., G; Lyndsay Surkosky, So., G; Nicole Brown, So., G.
Outlook: The Blazers will be hoping to get off the merry-go-round after back-to-back five-win seasons that included winless runs in Berks I. Courtney Gabbett (5.8 ppg) and Skyler Emory (4.5) are the team’s leading returners while last year’s two top scorers, Madison Spitko and Kaylie Walker, graduated. Marcinko cited the team’s speed and defense as reasons the Blazers can take a step forward this winter.
HILL SCHOOL Head coach: Jennifer Weissbach, 4th season
Last year’s record: 3rd place MidAtlantic Prep League, 8-10 overall
Players to watch: Olivia Matto, postgrad, G; Alexa Giacche, Sr., F; Qiana Vigo, Sr., G; Amelia Sniffin, Sr., F; Tess Gray, So., G.
Outlook: Hill has an exciting blend of returning players and some intriguing newcomers this winter. Senior co-captains Alexa Giacche (four-year starter, All-Area honorable mention) and Qiana Vigo lead a strong Class of 2019 that added postgrad Olivia Matto, a 1,000-point scorer at Manheim Township, and Amelia Sniffin, the first recipient of the Wallach Family Military Scholarship, who has overcome two serious back surgeries and multiple foot fractures to play this season. The Blues started on the right track by winning their season-opening tournament in comeback fashion over Masters (N.Y.). They’ll embark on their “strongest schedule in recent memory,” according to coach Jennifer Weissbach, with trips to the Art Turner Memorial Showcase in Fairfax, Va., and the Bullis (Md.) tournament in the lead up to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League slate. “With the most challenging schedule in recent history ahead of us, our team’s goals are to work harder than we’ve ever worked before,” said Weissbach, who is preaching consistency to her team. “The Mid-Atlantic Prep League is composed of prep powerhouses so we will look to compete at the highest level amongst those teams and make a run at the MAPL championship.”
METHACTON Head coach: Craig Kaminski, 17th season Last year’s record: 8-5 PAC, 13-12 overall, PAC and District 1-6A playoff qualifier
Players to watch: Sydney Tornetta, Jr., G; Abby Penjuke, Sr., F; Caroline Pellicano, Jr., F; Sydney Hargrove, Jr., F; Nicole Timko, Fr., G; Allie Hazlett, So., F.
Outlook: Last year, Methacton had a number of starters it needed to replace but had capable seniors like Olivia Pennypacker (All-Area 2nd team, Widener) waiting in the wings. The Warriors need to do the same this season, but with less experienced understudies. Fortunately, junior guard Sydney Tornetta (9.2 ppg) and senior forward Abby Penjuke (7.1 ppg) seem capable of increased roles as others find theirs. “Lack of experience will be our main concern this year,” coach Craig Kaminski said. “How the two returning starters gel with three new starters at the varsity level and our talented group of new players will determine the success and length of our season.” By Kaminski’s assessment, talent won’t be holding the Warriors back though. “We feel that any five players we put on the floor at any time can drive to score inside or shoot from the outside.” Methacton should be right it the thick of the chase in the PAC Liberty Division with postseason places in reach.
NORRISTOWN Head coach: Richard Fisher, 3rd season
Last year’s record: 4-18 overall Players to watch: Brooke Heim, Sr., F/C; Ashley Schools, Sr., G; Emily Schools, Sr., G; Dominique Mansfield, Sr., F/C; Tamara Wright, Sr., G; Destiny Steele, Jr., G/F; Tajahana Wright, Jr., G; Amari Wise, Jr., G: Juniya Thomas, Jr., F/C; Tiann Byrd, Jr., F; Saitayanna Evans, Fr., F/C.
Outlook: Coach Richard Fisher is preaching competitiveness and limiting turnovers in the preseason for the Eagles. “We must play very good defense non-stop and cut down on turnovers,” he said. “If we turn the ball over we will struggle to score against some of the better teams.” Though Norristown must replace last year’s leading scorer Beyonce Collins, a handful of players return with varsity experience. “Of course we want to improve our win-loss total, for that to happen we must be competitive from start to finish and we need to make good basketball decisions. If we can do those two things, we may surprise some people.”
OWEN J. ROBERTS Head coach: Jeremy Mellon, 11th season Last year’s record/accomplishments: 6-7 PAC, 11-11 overall, District 1-6A first round
Players to watch: Diana Rantz, Sr., G; Olivia Leclaire, Jr., F; Hannah Clay, Jr., G; Brooke Greenawald, Jr., C; Avery White, Fr., G; Maddi Koury, Jr., G; Kiana Daye, So., G; Allie Iyoob, So., C; Alicia Avello Largo, Jr., G; Emily Schall, Jr., G; Haley Livingston, Jr., F; Abbie Bussard, Fr., C.
Outlook: The Wildcats will look to build on the positives of last season while returning four of five starters, including All-Area first team junior forward Olivia LeClaire and senior guard Diana Rantz (All-Area HM). That group will hope to change its fate in the PAC Liberty after a 3-7 mark in 2017-18. There’s reason to believe that will be the case with guard play leading the way. “We return all of our guards from last year and will also get great help from freshman Avery White and Alicia Avello Largo at guard,” coach Jeremy Mellon said. “We have a great group of girls who are teamcentered and want to win.”
PERKIOMEN SCHOOL Head coach: Nicole Misevicius, 1st season
Last year’s record: 4-10 overall Players to watch: Chardae Stone, So., G; Abbey Glavin, Jr., G/F; Tera
Heintz, So., G; Maddi Springman, Fr., G; Naomi Knight, So., F.
Outlook: Nicole Misevicius moves from assistant to head coach as the Panthers look to a crop of promising underclassmen to contribute this winter. Abbey Glavin is the veteran of the bunch while newcomers Chardae Stone, Maddi Springman and Naomi Knight will help Perk School progress. “We are young overall,’ Misevicius said, “but we have a handful of new players that bring more basketball experience than we’ve had the past two years. We look forward to building on what we have worked on the past two years while incorporating our new additions who look to be great assets to the team.”
PERKIOMEN VALLEY Head coach: Kelly Sorber, 1st season Last year’s record: 12-1 PAC, 21-9 overall, PAC runner-up, District 1-6A and PIAA 6A qualifier
Players to watch: Kelly Owens, Sr., G; Katie Hurd, Sr., F/G; Gabby Marinacci, Jr., G; Kylie Monaco, Jr., F/G; Sara Nijssen, Sr., C; Naiya Daisey, So., G; Lily Sherman, Jr., F; Anna Hallissey, So., G; Allysion Loveless, Jr., F; Jaidyn Daye, So., F; Lindsay Hartman, Jr., G; Grace Ramsey, Jr., F.
Outlook: The Vikings look a whole lot different this winter after the last few years were defined by the inside presence of Megan Jonassen (Fordham) and Taylor Hamm (University of the Sciences), who have since graduated. Both All-Area first teamers, Jonassen was the Mercury Player of the Year after averaging almost 18 points a game. If that wasn’t enough, coach John Strawoet retired, passing the program off to assistant Kelly Sorber, a 2009 St. Pius X grad who played at East Stroudsburg. It makes Perk Valley a bit of an unknown, but presents an opportunity for senior captains Kelly Owens and Katie Hurd to take on bigger roles and new players to emerge. Sorber expects the Vikings “to play strong defense and a fastpaced game” this winter.
PHOENIXVILLE Head coach: Mike Behnke, 1st season
Last year’s record: 5-8 PAC, 12-11 overall, District 1-5A qualifier
Players to watch: Ameerah Green, Sr., G; Hannah Sands, Sr., C; Keara Hennessey, Sr., F; Marlee Brown, Jr., G; Aubrie Breisblatt, So., G; Nailiah Green, So., F/C; Sammy Brown, Fr., G; Chloe Johns, So., F/C.
Outlook: Mike Behnke and his unique basketball journey will lead the Phantoms in 2018-19. Behnke comes to Phoenixville after previously coaching in Asia, most notably as the national team coach of Bhutan, and recently as coach of the ABA’s Pottstown Flames. Seniors Ameerah Green and Hannah Sands will be looked upon to lead the way for a roster that is largely underclassmen. “This will be my first go around with the PAC,” Behnke said, “so I am competing against the unknown while instituting a new offensive and defensive system, but
I have been handed a well-coached team of players.”
POPE JOHN PAUL II Head coach: TJ Lonergan, 1st season Last year’s record/accomplishments: 9-4 PAC, 13-11 overall; PAC Frontier Division champions; District 1 5A qualifier
Players to watch: Elise Sylvester, Sr., G; Lauren Ciuba, Sr., G; Kallan Bustynowicz, So., F.
Outlook: TJ Lonergan takes the helm at PJP after most recently assisting his father, Tom Lonergan, at Gwynedd Mercy. The elder Lonergan is something of a southeast Pa. coaching legend, approaching 700 career wins after stops at Bishop McDevitt, Central Bucks East and Gwynedd Mercy. With pedigree in tow, TJ Lonergan looks to bring stability to the PJP program. “With a new coaching staff, a new system and a new philosophy this year for our program, we are hoping we can have a successful year right out of the gate that will help lay the groundwork for the program’s future,” Lonergan said. He’ll have his work cut out for him with Elise Sylvester (All-Area 2nd team) being one of just two returners who played significant minutes in 201718. Still, Lonergan seems to have the right mentality about staying on an upward trajectory. “We hope to be able to be able to improve each day at practice in the hope that by February we are a team that no one wants to face,” he said.
POTTSGROVE Head coach: Mike Brendlinger, 17th season
Last year’s record: 5-8 PAC, 11-12 overall, District 1-5A qualifier
Players to watch: Jordyn Mayes, Sr., G; Savannah Lear, Sr., G; Summer Walker, Jr., G; Riley Simon, So., G; Sierra Potts, So., G/F; Sydney Mowery, So., F; Rachel Ludwig, So., F; Justine Fretz, So., G; Jaimi Makins, So., G; Emma Yaccarino, So., G; Kyleah Holmes, So., F.
Outlook: Mike Brendlinger is living what most coaches dream of: all five starters and key subs are back. There’s major continuity after last season when the Falcons minimized what had the makings of a down season. A pair of then-freshmen, Riley Simon (10.2 ppg, All-Area 2nd team) and Sierra Potts (All-Area HM), stepped up to lead a promising class that is just getting started. “The strength of the team is its depth,” Brendlinger said. “We have many players who have worked hard over the summer to improve and are capable of starting or filling in off the bench.” With the positive outlook around Pottsgrove, the Falcons are targeting qualification to the PAC playoffs and advancement in district play.
POTTSTOWN Head coach: Madison Morton, 1st season Last year’s record: 3-10 PAC, 7-15 overall
Players to watch: Reilly Owens, Sr., C; Da’zah Regusters, Sr., G;
Kiyah Cotton, Sr., F; Emme Wolfel, Jr., G; Trinell Watson, Fr.
Outlook: No player carried more of an offensive load for her team than Ebony Reddick did last season for Pottstown. The Trojans must replace the 17.7 points per game of the All-Area first team selection and 1,000-point scorer. Thankfully, as new head coach Madison Morton puts it, “Our returning players are eager to take the next step forward.” The former athletic director at St. Pius X and Boyertown praised his group’s hustle and attitude as the Trojans look to solve the challenge of replacing greater than half its offensive output.
SPRING-FORD Head coach: Mickey McDaniel, 6th season
Last year’s record: 12-1 PAC, 24-5 overall, PAC champion, District 1-6A semifinals, PIAA 6A first round
Players to watch: Abby Goodrich, Sr., F; Cassie Marte, Sr., G/F; Lucy Olsen, So., G; Ariana Magazzolo, Sr., G; Olivia Olsen, Sr., F; Alyssa Yuan, Jr., F; Emily Tiffan, So., F; Sky Sullivan, Jr., G.
Outlook: Few could have expected Spring-Ford to be at the level it was last season while winning the PAC championship, finishing fourth in District 1-6A and making the PIAA playoffs despite five new starters and an underclassmen-heavy rotation. It felt like the start of a new golden era for the Rams after making the PIAA final in 2013 and 2014. The cornerstone pieces this season will be All-Area first team sophomore guard Lucy Olsen (10.1 ppg) and second team senior forward Abby Goodrich (10.5) plus key contributors Cassie Marte, Alyssa Yuan and Emily Tiffan. The Rams have a daunting non-league schedule against Pa. power programs Cumberland Valley and North Allegheny plus a trip to the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Ariz., during winter break. Those results will help give a sense of whether Spring-Ford will be playing into March again. “Our goal is to get better each day we are in the gym so that we can rise to the challenge of the conference and non-conference schedules. Work ethic, defense, offensive execution, enthusiasm and leadership will be the primary ingredients we need to compete,” coach Mickey McDaniel said. Though McDaniel might not be one for lofty projections, make no mistake, the Rams are viewed as the firm favorite to repeat in the PAC.
UPPER MERION Head coach: Leah Shumoski, 4th year
Last year’s record: 9-4 PAC, 14-14 overall, PIAA 5A qualifier
Players to watch: Izzy Legendre, So., F; Meg Gebhart, Sr., G; Aaliyah Parson, Jr., G; Maddie Harvey, Sr., G.
Outlook: This season is bigger than basketball for Upper Merion. After qualifying for the PIAA tournament for the first time in 38 years, members of the Vikings’ squad were involved in a serious car accident in July, juniors Tymeriah Stanton and Jenna Foster surviving life-threatening injuries. Though still recovering, the two juniors have been with the Vikings in preseason and have taken roles as inspirational assistant coaches. “They are bringing joy and perspective back into our gym,” coach Leah Shumoski said. “They are now on the sidelines coaching with me and working hard to make it back for their senior seasons. This season we play for them.”
UPPER PERKIOMEN Head coach: Kathryne Vetter, 1st season Last year’s record: 0-13 PAC, 4-18 overall
Player to watch: Kaitlyn Mundy, Sr., G; Kayla Ramos, Sr., G/F; Ayden Pigeon, Jr., G.
Outlook: Kathryne Vetter, a Quakertown grad who played at Delaware Valley University, has been installed as head coach at Upper Perk after being an assistant for three years under Greg Swavely. The team’s leading scorer the past two years (8.4 in 2017-18), Kaitlyn Mundy will look to make it three in a row this winter.
Pope John Paul II’s Elise Sylvester, left, Owen J. Roberts’ Olivia Leclaire, right, Methacton’s Sydney Tornetta, below left, and Spring-Ford’s Abby Goodrich, below right, are four of the top returning players for the 2018-19 girls basketball season.