Van Dood: Despite graduation losses, Tuckers can compete

11/23/2010 10:01 PM |

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Jackie Berkoski, a guard, is one of Mattituck's four seniors.

When the Mattituck Tuckers girls basketball coach, Steve Van Dood, said his team hit the ground running on the first day of practice last Thursday, he wasn’t kidding. With an eight-game non-league schedule beginning on Wednesday against Hejemly High School from Denmark, Van Dood said it is imperative that his team gets in shape right away.

“Right from the start, we’re working on our conditioning,” Van Dood said. “We are running real hard. We have to be in shape.”

The Tuckers, who went 14-3 last year, lost some key starters from last season’s team (including the school’s all-time leading scorer, Stephanie Pisacano) that lost in the Suffolk County Class B final to the Center Moriches Red Devils. Van Dood said there are enough returning players and some additional depth that will allow his team to remain competitive. Mattituck will be led by a quartet of seniors in forward/center Katherine Wilcenski, forward Stefanie Loverde, guard Jackie Berkoski and guard/forward Morgan Zuhoski.

Through the first four days of practice, Van Dood had the team practice some offensive plays, like sideline and baseline inbounds plays. Earlier this week, additional offensive sets, the zone press, and breaking the press were all worked on.

“More than anything, I wanted the girls to get used to having the ball in their hands again,” he said. “We worked on the little things it takes to be successful.”

The Tuckers will have more depth and size this season. There are five players that are 5 feet 10 inches or taller, including junior Clare Finnican, who is 6-1.

“We’ve been working on getting the ball inside and the drop step to the basket,” Van Dood said. “We’re going to slow the game down and take the air out of the basketball.”

Van Dood has the flexibility to play his big squad or put in his commando team that will press.

Against tough opponents like the scrappy Red Devils or the Wyandanch Warriors, who reload every year, Van Dood said the key to the Tuckers’ success is to play like a team.

“That’s the whole key,” he said. “Can we do that? We have depth, which is good. We have an experienced group that is used to making the playoffs. They are battle-tested, and we have a nice young core. We can go 10 deep. Any one of these players can step up when we need them.”