MIDDLETOWN >> Things are upbeat at the girls basketball programs at both Middletown High and Mercy.
Mercy will be hard-pressed to perform an encore to its 25-2 Class LL championship season, won on a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Maria Weselyj over Lauralton Hall, 54-53, last March.
But the practice at Mercy is not to rebuild, but to reload.
“We graduated five seniors who all saw significant time the past three to four seasons,” said Mercy coach Tim Kohs. “Our annual goal to be one of the best teams in Connecticut has not changed.”
Kohs has reasons to be optimistic. Those reasons are named Maura Fitzpatrick, Kendra Landy and Sarah Gallo, plus a number of newcomers who figure to contribute.
Fitzpatrick is a 5-10 junior guard (8 point per game, 7 rebounds) who will play the wing this season. Landy is a 5-7 junior point guard (4 ppg, 4.1 assists), and Gallo is a 6-0 senior center (5 ppg, 5 rebounds) who can also shoot from distance in addition to being a presence in the post.
Kohs, in his 21st season as head coach at Mercy, listed Morgan Cahill (5-11 senior forward), Taylor Fascione (5-6 sophomore guard), Destine Perry (5-6 sophomore guard). Alexis Brown (5-6 senior forward), Hannah Coleman (5-5 junior guard), Sofia Giansiracusa (5-6 junior guard), Haley Vanty (5-8 sophomore forward), Nicole Carlone (5-0 senior guard) and Jolie Erlacher (5-5 junior guard) as players who will make significant contributions as the season goes on.
“We have a chance to be a very good team that will continue to improve as the season progresses,” said Kohs. “It will take time to establish roles and develop consistency.”
The Tigers open Wednesday at East Haven and the home opener is Friday night against Amity Regional of Woodbridge.
Middletown returns six players from its 11-9 regular season and Central Connecticut Conference playoff berth team. The Blue Dragons qualified for the state tournament for the fifth year in a row, but were eliminated by eventual Class L state champion Farmington in the first round.
“I think we have a chance just like last season to really get on a roll as the season progresses,” said Middletown coach Rob Smernoff, now in his seventh year. “We open with four heavyweights in RHAM, Berlin, Manchester and Bristol Eastern, but we are anxious to see how we perform against those teams.”
MHS is led by four seniors, all of whom are captains. They include three-year starter, forward Mikaela Coady; three-year starter at point guard Rajeen Mayo who was an Honorable Mention All-CCC player last season; three-year varsity player, guard Marissa Aldieri; and three-year guard/forward Tamyia King, who is an excellent perimeter player, according to Smernoff.
Other key players are sophomore forward/center Shariffah Mason, junior guard/forward Christina Pizzuto and junior guard Amanda Bowen.
Among the promising newcomers, Smernoff said that 6-2 freshman center Brielle Wilborn, “Has a chance to contribute immediately to the varsity and can provide a much-needed inside presence.”
Smernoff also said that Mason became a starter towards at the end of last season and has done a lot of off-season work. “She has a chance to have a breakout season this year,” said Smernoff.
Middletown will play in a Holiday Tournament at Sheehan High in Wallingford with Ellington, Simsbury and host Sheehan.
“I think our tough early season schedule will have us battle-tested for January and February,” said Smernoff. “The conference [CCC South] is wide-open. Bristol Eastern and Central return quality players, and until someone beats Berlin they are still the champs. Plainville has the best player in the division in Kelsey Clemons, but I believe that if we play up to our ability, we can compete with anybody in our division.”
Middletown opens at home with RHAM of Hebron on Wednesday at 7 p.m.