No matter how you slice it, there’s no denying that the Shoreham-Wading River High School girls basketball team underwent a massive player drain since last season. The Wildcats graduated eight players, including four starters and five of their top six players.
“Obviously, we lost a lot,” coach Adam Lievre said. “We graduated 84 percent of our points. Obviously, we have a lot of stats to fill but I don’t think we’re taking a major drop-off in talent. We have a lot of newcomers to the varsity level, but I’m not concerned with where we are right now.”
Perhaps that’s because Shoreham has a way of churning out good athletes, year in, year out. That may be why the Wildcats reached the playoffs the past 10 seasons.
Just how quickly the new players adjust to varsity ball could go a long way toward determining how well Shoreham fares. The current Wildcats have a tough act to follow. Last season’s team won its eighth league championship, sharing the League VI crown with Mount Sinai. The Wildcats (18-3) reached the Suffolk County Class A semifinals before running into a tough Harborfields team.
“Last year [is] hard to top,” said Lievre.
Shoreham will rely on Mikayla Dwyer, a senior All-Conference guard and former League VI Rookie of the Year. Also offering valued varsity experience are senior forward Erin Triandafils, junior guards Bella Meli and Michele Corona and sophomore forward Hayden Lachenmeyer.
New to the varsity scene are: guards Julia DeGolyer, Sam Rassner and Abby Korzekwinski and forwards Kaitlyn Cassidy, Melissa Marchese, Brianna Arabio and Erin Malone. They are all juniors except for Korzekwinski, a sophomore.
“I think we have some kids who are capable but they’re going to have to prove it on the court first,” Lievre said. “There’s some talent there, but a lot of them have to get their feet wet for the first time at the varsity level.”
Lievre said the Wildcats can still run and get up and down the court fast. That will come in handy against League VI opponents like Mount Sinai (which Lievre considers the league favorite) and Elwood/John Glenn.
Shoreham will be tested early. Six of its 16 league games will be played before the holiday break.
Class C could mean opportunity.
For Bishop McGann-Mercy (11-8), the move from Class B to Class C could mean playoff opportunity for the Monarchs.
“I foresee us doing very well as a C,” said coach Meaghan Macarthur.
Mercy returns quality, if not quantity from last season’s team, which lost to Mattituck in the Suffolk Class B final. Senior forward Melina Santacroce, junior forward Mary Grace Hartmann and senior guard/forward Caryn Nabrizny were all starters, but they’re also the only returning players.
Santacroce, an All-Conference player, averaged 15.6 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game. Her role on the team is clear.
“Score points and rebound,” Macarthur said. “That’s what I need her to do.”
Macarthur said Santacroce is a smarter player than she was a year ago. That goes well with her work rate.
“She has such a crazy determination not to give up and she will literally do anything to win a game,” said Macarthur.
Meanwhile, six former junior varsity players join the varsity ranks: junior guard Karina Ellis, sophomore guard Sarah Penny, freshman guard/forward Gianna Santacroce (Melina’s sister), sophomore guard/forward Molly Tuthill, junior guard Jordyn Stromski and senior guard Vanessa Quiros.
“It’s looking really, really good,” Macarthur said. “We’re picking stuff up really quick in practice.”
She added: “We have very good team chemistry and I think we have a lot of balanced skill sets between everybody. We have a lot of players that can do a lot of things … It’s primarily a brand new team aside from those three returning varsity players, but we have such a positive energy on the team that I think that’s going to make a big difference.”
One coach leaves, and another one arrives.
That’s the way it is at Riverhead (7-12), which bid farewell to Dave Spinella, who stepped aside after 14 seasons in charge of the Blue Waves. Under Spinella, Riverhead went 161-101 and reached the playoffs 10 times.
In his place steps Kenny Coard. Coard, 51, who played and coached in Massachusetts, returns to the high school coaching ranks for the first time since 2009.
“This is my first love,” he said.
Coard has some established veteran players to work with like senior guards Faith Johnson-DeSilvia, Kate McCarney, Kim Ligon and Nia Johnson and senior guard/forward Angie Graziano. Also in the mix are juniors Katie Brown, Iona Weston and Regan Montefusco, sophomore Cece Khan and freshman Avery Hillis. They’re all guards.
“It’s a great situation,” Coard said. “Obviously, Coach Spinella did a great job. I just look forward to being able to build on what they have already established.”
What is Coard asking of his players?
“I just ask them to give 110 percent,” he said. “We dive after every loose ball. We’ll grab that rebound. We’ll defend endline to endline and we play smart.”
“I think the girls are really passionate about the game,” he continued. “They want to win and they play hard. I just want to make sure we get everything out of them that we can and they get everything they deserve.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s All-Conference guard, Mikayla Dwyer, is a former League VI Rookie of the Year. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)