Girls Basketball Preview: Southold’s new coach feels right at home

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Nicole Busso, a junior forward, is one of Southold's eight varsity veterans.

Southold reminds Amanda Barrilo of Chittenango, the small village she played for in high school that is about a half-hour drive from Syracuse. But that’s not the only reason she said she feels comfortable in her new post as the Southold girls basketball coach.

This is the first varsity job for Barrilo, 23, who succeeds Dennis Reilly. Last season Barrilo was the Southold junior varsity coach. She coached Southold in summer and spring leagues in addition to holding open gym sessions twice a week during the fall.

“I feel like I really know” the players, she said. “I know their skills. I could get right in there right from day one.”

Barrilo has some material to work with. Eight players from last season’s team, which went 7-11 and lost to The Stony Brook School in a Suffolk County Class C semifinal, are back. Among them are forward Nicole Busso, guard Sydney Campbell, forward Melissa Rogers, guard/forward Lauren Ficurilli and guard Michaela Christman. They are all juniors except for Ficurilli, a senior.

The other returning players are junior guard Carley Staples, senior guard/forward Sarah Manfredi and senior guard Kelly Bosco. Two sophomores, guard Justina Babcock and forward Abby Scharadin, have been promoted from the JV team.

Returning to the playoffs for a third straight year is a goal. “I do think it’s within reach,” said Barrilo.

Barrilo said the dedication of her players has been inspiring. “I think they’ve all come in with the mind-set of wanting to be successful and they’re putting in a lot of effort,” she said. “They’re putting out their best for a successful season and that’s all you could ask for.”

Scoring could be a critical area for the First Settlers. Barrilo said the players cannot be afraid to miss shots.

“They need to build confidence in themselves as offensive players,” she said. “You can never make shots that you don’t take. … You’re going to learn that you’re going to make mistakes and that’s O.K. You just have to move on.”

Barrilo, whose father was a basketball coach, said she had dreamed of one day coaching a varsity team and feels blessed to have the opportunity. She said, “I was waiting for it so long and now it’s here before I know it.”

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Lauren Guja, a junior forward, was an all-league player for Mattituck last season.

The value of Lauren Guja, Alexa Orlando, Shannon Dwyer and Allie Wilcenski to Mattituck (5-13) may never have been greater. Those four account for all of Mattituck’s remaining varsity experience from last season.

It’s not a bad foursome. Guja, a junior forward, was an all-league selection, and Dwyer, a sophomore point guard, was the League VII rookie of the year. Orlando, a junior, is a heady point guard, and Wilcenski, a hard-working center, should play a more enhanced role this season as a junior.

“They’re going to spread the gospel to the other kids,” coach Steve Van Dood said. “They’re going to play a big role.”

As compared to last season, Van Dood said, the Tuckers have a little more speed, a little more toughness and a lot more depth. “I think it’s all good,” he said. “We have young kids who want to play. They want to play hard. They execute nicely. They’re a pleasure to have on the basketball court.”

The Tuckers are something else: young. They don’t have a single senior among them.

Alex Berkoski, a junior point guard, is back from an injury that caused her to miss the entire 2010-11 season.

Van Dood said he is happy with many of the new players: junior guards Nicole Murphy and Syndey Sanders, freshman forward Courtney Murphy (Nicole’s sister), sophomore forward Molly Kowalski, junior forward Jackie Jones and eighth-grade guard Katie Hoeg. All of them, except for Hoeg, played for Mattituck’s 17-1 junior varsity team last season.

Van Dood said figuring out a starting lineup will be difficult, and the Tuckers may send different personnel onto the floor on different nights, depending on the opposition.

The League VII competition is going to be tough, with the likes of Southampton, Center Moriches and Wyandanch. Even though the Tuckers are only one year removed from a Suffolk Class B final, finding the six league wins that would assure them of a playoff berth will not be easy. “League VII is probably one of the toughest leagues in all Suffolk County,” said Van Dood.

With so many young players on the team, Van Dood said the goal is to keep things simple and emphasize execution.

“They’re all working hard,” he said. “They all have their eyes on the prize. They’re listening and they’re learning and they’re getting better every day.”

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