The Status Quo Will Not Sit Still

Posted: December 03, 1990

Changes abound in area girls' basketball.

Central League coaching positions have become a revolving door. One Del-Val League school has been forced to leave its gym indefinitely. And Cardinal O'Hara and Archbishop Prendergast once again have switched roles in their battle for dominance in the Catholic League Southern Division.

In the Central League, new coaches took over at Strath Haven, Penncrest and Springfield. Bill Sweeney stepped in for John Smith, who coached 17 years at Strath Haven, winning the Central League title six of the last seven years. Penncrest's Wendy Heffernan and Springfield's Jim McDonough will try to turn around struggling programs.

The Sun Valley Vanguards, the reigning Del-Val League champions, would just like to find a home.

Sun Valley started practicing at Neumann College last Monday because its gym is being renovated. The Vanguards' home games could be played at Neumann. That means none of the crescent-moon backboards opponents disliked when playing at Sun Valley.

"I think it stinks," said senior Sondra Sipple, one of the Vanguards' team captains. "It's a major inconvenience having to drive to practice and losing our moon-shaped backboards. That was an advantage, because we were so used to them."

In the Catholic League Southern Division, O'Hara could take the upper hand this season in its never-ending rivalry with Prendergast.


ARCHBISHOP PRENDERGAST. Every time she steps onto the floor this season, senior Michele Thornton, who signed a basketball letter-of-intent with Villanova University, will know what to expect.

"I don't think this will be an easy season for me, personally," Thornton said. "I expect a lot of box-and-one (defenses) and a lot of double teams on me. I'm trying to look at it in a positive way. Although, many people are underestimating our team. I think O'Hara is better than us on paper. But, hopefully, we'll be able to surprise a lot of people."

Coach. Don Ciminera begins his ninth season.

Last season. Prendergast lost to Cardinal Dougherty in the Catholic League championship game, 59-51. The Pandas (23-2 overall, 11-1 league) tied with O'Hara for the regular-season title.

Players lost. Five of Ciminera's top seven players graduated from last season's team. Among the more prominent were all-Catholic guard Lisa Serafino, who received a basketball scholarship to Siena College, and all-Catholic forward Cindy Carroll, who received a basketball scholarship to Marist


Stacey DeVirgiliis, Sue Summers and Michele Olcese graduated.

In the last two seasons, those five helped compile a 42-6 record for Prendergast.

Players returning. Thornton, a guard who obtained all-Catholic honors for the third straight season, will be the hub of the offense, returning with her 14-point, 5.1-steal and 4.8-assist averages.

Starting with Thornton will be senior guards Jill Sassaman and Maureen Keffer, sophomore forward Becky Lloyd and senior center Sherry McClintock, who has received a basketball scholarship to Northeastern.

Outlook. "We have the makings of a good team, but we're certainly not there yet," Ciminera said. "This is a group that's played primarily junior varsity the last two seasons." Ciminera pointed out that Prendergast's junior varsity was 0-8 against Archbishop Carroll and O'Hara during that time.

CARDINAL O'HARA. Cardinal O'Hara coach Jack Keffer does not skirt any team. After facing some of the opponents Keffer has lined up, the Lions should be more than prepared for league rivals Carroll and Prendergast.

Keffer devised a schedule that will take the Lions to New York City to face highly regarded Christ the King. They also will play powerful Allentown Central Catholic, with Notre Dame-bound senior Michelle Marciniak.

"I may have over-scheduled," Keffer said, "but that will get us ready to take on a stronger Carroll team and Prendergast."

Coach. Keffer enters his third season as coach.

Last season. The Lions (19-5, 11-1) lost to Prendergast in the Southern Division championship game, 42-39. They were regular-season co-champions with Prendergast.

Players lost. All-Catholic Joanie Schuller graduated.

Players returning. Seniors Coleen Colsher and Joanie Gallagher will start with junior Stacie Keffer - the coach's daughter - and two much-improved players: senior Sally Lavender and junior Denise Dillon, the team's best athlete.

Sophomore Chrissie Donahue will be a key sub.

Outlook. "We're going to be very good," Keffer said, "if we don't have any injuries. We have eight strong players that played a lot the last two years. Our offense should be better than it's been. We have go-to players this year."


PENNCREST. First-year coach Wendy Heffernan will need patience with a team that lost seven seniors. She will try to mold a varsity team out of a group of sophomores.

"I have a group of kids that are willing to learn," Heffernan said. ''Team speed will be an advantage. Inexperience and lack of height will be major disadvantages."

Coach. Heffernan begins her first season as coach.

Last season. Penncrest finished eighth in the league (8-15, 6-12).

Players lost. All-league forward Monica Benson, the team's leading scorer, received a basketball scholarship to Coppin State. Forwards Kate Wiggins and Tracy North and guards Kristen Moore and Dawn Jenkins also graduated.

Players returning. The only returning varsity player is senior forward Velva Trent. Heffernan will assemble a starting unit from sophomores Peggy Breslin, Alison Morris and Kristen Osborne.

Sophomores Kelly McDougall and Christy Hansen could see time.

Outlook. "We'll be competitive in the league," Heffernan said, "not necessarily for the top two spots, but somewhere in the middle of the pack."

RIDLEY. The Green Raiders ended last season with a mild flourish, winning their last four league games. Coach Rick Gamble hopes the streak will carry over.

"We have seven seniors returning, and all of them have varsity playing time," Gamble said. "I think all the kids are better than they were last year."

Coach. Gamble returns for his seventh season.

Last season. The Green Raiders finished sixth in the league (13-12, 10-8). They lost in the first round of the PIAA District 1 class AAAA playoffs to Bensalem, 44-39.

Players lost. All-league guard Becky Shumaker and guard Jen Marsh graduated.

Players returning. Ridley's success will depend on the success of all- league senior guard Roe Falcone, who averaged 15.1 points per game last season. Seniors Stephanie Cain, a 5-foot, 11-inch center; forwards Katie Howat and Laurie Bell and guard Suzanne Parker will be the rest of the starting lineup. Junior Jen Smith, another 5-11 center, will help Cain rebounding.

Outlook. "We have good size. We're going to be good," Gamble said. "We feel we can challenge for the championship. I certainly think it's realistic that we're one of the top three teams in the league."

SPRINGFIELD. Jim McDonough inherits a team that did not win a league game last season. He will try to restore some confidence to a team that has lacked it.

"First of all, I want to change the attitude around here," said McDonough, who had been the junior-varsity coach the last two seasons. "We'll be learning as the season goes on and hopefully get stronger. I know this is a hard-working group of kids, and I'm really going to challenge them to work hard during practices."

Coach. McDonough enters his first season.

Last season. The Cougars were last in the league (2-21, 0-18).

Players lost. Erin McKenna and Jen Kraft graduated.

Players returning. Senior Erin Stiteler, an all-league guard, is back with fellow seniors Diana D'Alessio, Dina D'Alonzo and Chrissy Riebel. Juniors Donna Samyan and Christine Rhoads will vie for starting spots.

Outlook. "We're looking to be competitive, much more than we were in the past," McDonough said. "We're not overly big, so we'll stress defense. We'll rely on pressure defense and turnovers and try to score a lot off that."

STRATH HAVEN. Bill Sweeney, who took over when John Smith resigned after 17 years last season, is familiar with the team he has. Sweeney had been an assistant under Smith for five years, as freshman coach.

Sweeney said he felt no pressure in assuming the role Smith filled so superbly, going 359-94 for a .792 winning percentage.

"A coach puts pressure on himself, far greater than any external

pressure," Sweeney said. "My style is a little different from Mr. Smith's, but my philosophy of coaching and teaching is basically the same. I've worked with some of them since they were in seventh grade. You get to know the person, as well as know the talent they have."

Coach. Sweeney begins his first season.

Last season. The Panthers (25-5, 17-1) won their sixth league title in seven years. They lost to John S. Fine in the second round of the class AAA playoffs, 90-45.

Players lost. All-league guard Chrissy Yost received a basketball scholarship to Drexel, and all-league forward Jen Rinnander went to Delaware to play field hockey and lacrosse.

Players returning. Sweeney has a variety of talent to choose from in seniors Sarah Russell, Amy Barnes, Tara Bailey, Janine Hackett and Kenya Givens. Returning juniors include Kate Evans, Kate Stanley and Patience Jones.

Outlook. "We have some experience, but unfortunately when you graduate a player like Yost, that really hurts," Sweeney said. "This is an exceptional year for depth for us. We have 15 girls that could play, but we have to find a point guard. Haverford will be good, and you always have to watch out for Ridley."

UPPER DARBY. Maybe this is the Royals' season to attain respectability. Coach Dave Scanlon says his team has moved closer toward that goal.

"I really think I have some girls here that have put the time into making themselves better," Scanlon said. "Most of the girls improved their skills during the summer."

Coach. Scanlon begins his second season.

Last season. The Royals finished ninth in the league (6-18, 3-15). They lost to Penn Wood, 52-34, in the first round of the District 1 class AAAA playoffs.

Players lost. Molly Monaghan graduated.

Players returning. Junior guard Jill Cowen and senior forward Shakirra Harrigan will be the focal point of the Royals. Seniors Natalie Thomas and Rachel Manning also are back.

Senior Tameka Schuler, a transfer from West Catholic, is new to the team.

Outlook. "This is still a young team," Scanlon said. "The goal is to be .500 and not get our socks blown off. Another is knowing we could compete with any team on any given day."


ACADEMY PARK. The Knights had no junior varsity last season because coach Cheryl Cantrell choose to merge the varsity and JV teams to salvage something for the future. That could make a difference for a team that did not win a league game last season.

Coach. Cantrell enters her sixth season.

Last season. The Knights were last in the league (2-14, 0-12).

Players lost. Anita Roberson graduated.

Players returning. Seniors Kim Gray and Sherri Roam, and junior Telia Clark are the lone returning players.

Joining the team are senior Maureen Dougherty, juniors Karen Kelly and Nikki Hawkins and sophomore Stacey Hunter.

Outlook. "We can't go down from last year," Cantrell said. "These kids are willing to work. I see us finishing better than we did."

CHESTER. Because height will not be an asset for the Clippers - the tallest player stands 5-5 - coach George Carter will focus on what he says will be a team strength - quickness.

Coach. Carter enters his sixth season.

Last season. The Clippers finished seventh in the league (6-11, 3-9).

Players lost. Devita Howard, Tomeka Womack and Monica Fitzgerald graduated.

Players returning. Junior guards Katrina Strand and Rochelle Weaver, who led the team in scoring with a 14-ppg average and who is the team's tallest player (5-5), are back with senior Maureen Carr and sophomores Danielle Jordan and Gwen Atkinson.

Outlook. "I think we're going to be a better team than we were last year

because I have experienced guards," Carter said. "Guards can carry you, until you get your forwards and centers together."

CHICHESTER. Coach Al Cini is hoping against the worst as the Eagles prepare for this season.

"We're young and inexperienced," Cini said. "The heart of the team is going to be juniors, and Patti (Borcky, a center) is the only one back with varsity experience."

Coach. Cini begins his third season as coach.

Last season. The Eagles were third in the league (14-9, 8-4). They lost to Plymouth-Whitemarsh, 48-42, in the first round of the District 1 class AAAA playoffs.

Players lost. Barb Clausen, Liz Wilson, Lisa Scanlon and Ayanna Trusty graduated.

Players returning. Junior Borcky, a 6-2 center, is the player back.

Seniors Kristi Hollingsworth and Denise Kelly and juniors Lynn Baronsky,

Nicole Gibbs and Kyera Stewart are new to the team.

Outlook. "We're hoping to be in every game," Cini said. "I'm not looking for any one person to be the key, but (for) the team to come together as a group. Something may come out of this group."

INTERBORO. John Livingston has seven seniors returning.

"Hopefully, that will pay off," he said.

Coach. Livingston enters his sixth season.

Last season. The Bucs placed fifth in the league (6-12, 4-8).

Players lost. All-league guard Diane Smith graduated.

Players returning. Back are seniors Kim Dostellio, Melanie Murphy, Vicki Christopher, Jen Schaub, Anne Shanahan, Sue Wieland and T.C. Van DeVelde.

Outlook. "I'd like to be close to the top," Livingston said. "I think we're capable of giving some people a run. We'll have to improve on our shooting and our defense." The Bucs shot 24 percent from the floor last season.

PENN WOOD. Pats coach Theresa Dunbar will need to figure out a way to fill the offensive void left by the graduation of Carissa DeLaney, the team's leading scorer.

"We're going to have to find some offense from a lot of people," Dunbar said. "Jill (Pearsall) and Kristen (Schwindt) are going to have to shoot the ball and score more. I think they can, but we may be a little slow at the start."

Coach. Dunbar begins her second season.

Last season. The Pats took second in the league (12-10, 9-3). They lost to Cheltenham, 58-38, in the second round of the District 1 class AAAA playoffs.

Players lost. DeLaney and Kerri Wise graduated.

Players returning. A strong nucleus of seniors return in Jill Pearsall, Kristen Schwindt, Bridget Dougherty and twins Tina and Nessie Johnson.

Maren Fanter, an exchange student from Germany, will be new to the team.

Outlook. "We're going to have to have a balanced offense to be successful," Dunbar said. "I know we'll have a good defensive team. I think we can compete for the top spot. This is a pretty balanced league."

SUN VALLEY. Being the defending PIAA District 1 class AAA champ - the Vanguards won the title for the first time last season with a 44-34 victory over Strath Haven - will make them a target for opposing teams.

"This is a new team," coach Dana Messick said. "Last year was just a page in history. I feel real good about the group of kids that I have. The one thing we do lack is varsity experience."

Coach. Messick enters his 11th season.

Last season. After the Vanguards (25-5, 11-1) won the district title, they lost to Bishop McDevitt from Harrisburg, 59-35, in the first round of the state playoffs. They earned their fifth straight league title.

Players lost. Heather McGonagle, Judy Whitby, Lisa Hughes and Linda Carr graduated. Junior Kim Smith moved to Minnesota.

Players returning. All-league senior forward Sondra Sipple is back with seniors Marcie Root and Debbie Hamilton and 6-foot sophomore center Nikki Sheeky. Juniors Allison Worrell, Angel Garrett and Debbie Uff also return.

Outlook. "It's going to take a while for us to jell," Messick said. ''These kids want to work hard. I think the work ethic is going to make up for a lot of mistakes made early in the season due to the lack of experience."


THE CHRISTIAN ACADEMY. Once again, the Crusaders will be small in size and small in number.

Coach. Cheri Andrews will begin her first season as a substitute for Tracy Bidwell, who coached the team last season and will be an assistant because she is still recovering from a severe knee injury.

Last season. The Crusaders were second in the league, behind Phil-Mont Christian (11-11, 8-2).

Players lost. Joy Waller and Debbie Grau graduated.

Players returning. Senior Jen Quillen and juniors Jen Horne and Sharon Ewaka are back.

Outlook. "We have a young team," Bidwell said. "I think we're going to have a successful season again."


GARNET VALLEY. The Jaguars have made steady improvement under coach Ceil Rodden. They did not win a league game her first season, managed to win three last season and this season could bring more improvement.

The Jaguars will try to make the climb without Carole Sperone, the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,041 points, who graduated.

Coach. Rodden begins her third season.

Last season. The Jaguars were fifth in the league (6-15, 3-9).

Players lost. Sperone went to Widener to play volleyball.

Players returning. Sophomore Amy Tarr, the team's best player, returns with seniors Jen Misetic and Leslie Novack, and junior Melissa Briggs.

Outlook. "I see some positive improvement in the girls coming back," Rodden said. "I think our total team effort will be stronger this year. I expect to improve our record."

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