FAIRFIELD >> Fairfield Ludlowe senior Pauline Blatt posed the question, “Why not us?”
And why not the Falcons as a top team in the league this year? The Fairfield Ludlowe girls’ basketball team enters this season returning solid numbers. They graduated just three seniors and have experience and depth to contend with the rest of the FCIAC.
A bulk of their production is back after a season where they advanced to the second round of the Class LL state tournament before falling to Trumbull, 58-37.
Standing in the way of success for the Falcons though will be the same road block that ended their season last March.
“I think one of the things is that mental toughness that we didn’t demonstrate in that loss to Trumbull,” head coach Sarah Huntington said. “And that’s one of the things that I’m trying to get them to really go at each other in practice.”
Ludlowe, which finished 12-10 last year, will be looking to bridge that gap with a tough defensive tenacity.
“We’re really working a lot on that defensive ruthlessness,” Huntington said. “I think those are the things we can control. We can’t control how tall we are, we can’t control how big we are, but we can definitely control mental toughness and not be intimidated by other teams.”
A year ago the Falcons gave up roughly 41 points a game, a stat they will be looking to improve upon. Blatt and the rest of the seniors said they’ve already noticed a difference this season in the defensive department.
“I think defense will be our top priority this year,” senior Sara Grabowski said. “I think we’ve gotten a lot stronger as well and we can really muscle our way through.”
A big asset to Ludlowe’s success will be the offseason work. A handful of girls participated in AAU and didn’t stop playing when the season ended last March. Huntington said it’s helped tremendously with flow and building upon what the players learned.
“This group has come in and we’ve just been able to hit the ground running,” Huntington said. “They’ve come in really willing and ready to work, and as a result I can push them even harder and they’ve responded to that.”
Huntington said Blatt is the team’s leader, while Grabowski has come into the season in the best shape of her career. Joining the two seniors is senior guard Julia von Ehr, juniors Caroline Pangallo, Charlotte Blatt and sophomores Regan Steed and Alex McKinnon. Huntington listed Trish Auray, Carey Yates, Meg Curran and Julia Pangallo as individuals who should see quality court time.
“I think all of the underclassman have been working really hard and been stepping up in practice,” Blatt said. “I mean we only have three seniors so a lot of the underclassman have taken on a lot of that responsibility of becoming a leader.”
Added von Ehr: “I think one of the underclassman who is really stepping up is Alex McKinnon. She’s the tallest girl on our team and she’s just been showing so much improvement in the post.”
The Falcons open up the season on Wednesday on the road against St. Joseph at 7 p.m. Huntington said in her fourth year this group has the depth and talent to go far, it’s just a matter of how much they are willing to put in and improve.
“I think they have a lot of potential,” Huntington said. “I think there’s a lot of stuff we need to work on, but once they learn to really commit to themselves on defense and committing to getting better and doing the little things outside of practice, they have the potential to be pretty solid.”