WESTPORT >> After failing to qualify for the state girls’ basketball tournament for the first time since 1985 last season, Staples head coach Ed Huydic and his crew aren’t dwelling too much on the past. It was a tough and disappointing blow but the motto this winter is new beginnings.
“That’s the only way I can look at it,” Huydic said. “(It) was painful not to do it last year, but this group wants to get the ball rolling again, thus the new beginnings.”
The team is focused on collecting eight wins and making it back to the postseason, while improving. It will be a steady uphill climb for the Wreckers who graduated guard Erica Stein and leading scorer Nikki Bukkovsky. But this team features more balance, something the players are excited about.
“I think last year we played a lot of individual game,” junior Abby Lustig said. “The focus is really on the team effort.”
Huydic said part of developing that winning chemistry is going to be having depth at positions and enough talented people to spread the floor, something he believes his team possesses.
The Wreckers, who went 7-13 last season, feature a strong junior class that will be the driving force. Point guard Maggie Fair, Lustig in the three position and post player Madeline Schemel will be a definitive source of the team’s success.
“Well, coach said the one and five spot are really important,” Fair said. “The main focus is getting the ball inside and looking to dish out; really focusing on finishing.”
“Maggie has been practicing really, really well,” Huydic said. “The one, three and five (positions) have got to lead the way.”
Those three return with the most varsity experience, while they will be joined by a senior and sophomore class. Huydic mentioned senior captains Natasja George (guard), Meredith Bemus (center) as well as junior Kelsey Bobrow and sophomore Julia Bartimer who will contribute to the team this year.
The Wreckers have played an ambitious preseason schedule with multiple scrimmages against talented state-wide teams. It should serve the team well as they open the season against Trumbull on Wednesday and then travel to two-time defending FCIAC champion Danbury.
The Wreckers are pegged to finish as one of the bottom teams in the league, but the players feel confident they can develop and move their way up.
“There are definitely strong teams out there,” Lustig said. “But it’s better to start lower and work your way up and improve.”
Added Schemel: “I think we’ll be able to make a run and upset a few teams.”
The team is confident they can make it back to the postseason this season while developing their own team identity.
“Can we achieve at least making it back there, the answer is definitively yes,” Huydic said. “It’s going to take time though.”