Joe Read, the fourth coach in three years for Southold High School girls basketball team, realizes that bringing in a new coach and a new system could be confusing. But he also feels the First Settlers are talented and focused enough to overcome such an obstacle.
“I feel for them because they’ve had [four] coaches in the last three years,” he said. “Every coach will bring something different. I think they can achieve more this year.”
That’s a strong statement, considering Southold (16-7 last season) earned the Long Island Class C championship and was a win away from reaching the New York State final four.
“As basketball players, there’s room for improvement,” Read said. “They want to improve.”
The Settlers will have to run a lot in games because Read plans to change the tempo of the games.
“The team is going to be very fast,” Read said. “For the type of athlete at Southold, this going to be a good style. A lot of them play soccer and they’re good on their feet.”
Read has reason to be optimistic as four starters return from last year’s successful side, including center Melissa Rogers, whose start to the season is in jeopardy because of an ACL injury. Rogers, who dominated the inside games last year, is still in physical therapy and Read did not know when she will return.
“She’s not able to go at 100 percent,” he said. “She’s a strong player, but has to get her legs under her for a while. She will make an impact.”
So will some other seniors, including guard Sydney Campbell and center Nicole Busso.
Carley Staples and Michaela Christman should be the forwards. Read said Staples was “a tough cookie. She’s going to give a lot of teams trouble defensively.”
Christman returns after a battling ACL injury last year. “She has a nice touch,” Read said.
Junior forward Cyndi Van Bourgondien is following in the footsteps of her older sisters, Betsy and Kim, with the First Settlers.
Read also will be able to call on two other juniors — center Abby Scharadin and guard Shannon Smith.
He has liked what he has seen in practice.
“I’m hoping to build on that,” Read said. “They seem hungry and they’re really excited. They’re giving me everything they have and I’m a demanding coach.”
Read and the First Settlers will find out soon enough. They open their season at Eastport/South Manor, a Class A school, on Tuesday.
“That should tell us a lot,” Read said. “I expect us to have a lot of trouble with the ball. They’re a big school. That will give us a good indication of what we need to work on.”
With no seniors on last year’s team, Mattituck (8-10) reached the Suffolk County Class B semifinals, losing to Hampton Bays, 63-44.
A year older and wiser, the Tuckers hope to go a little farther this season.
“I expect us to definitely make the playoffs and get to the county finals again,” coach Steve Van Dood said. “That’s our goal.”
And for some good reasons.
“We have the same players,” Van Dood said. “We are 10 deep and I feel very confident in the top 10 girls. Any girl can light it up on game night. We have no stars.”
Van Dood said that any player “can end up in double digits.”
“The girls have been there,” he said. “We are not a young team. We’re experienced. That should pay off in dividends.”
Van Dood said that he will rely on “a good core of veterans.”
His starters likely will be seniors Allie Wilcenski, point guard Alex Berkoski, guard Alexa Orlando and junior forward Shannon Dwyer, who also can perform in the backcourt.
Wilcenski, who averaged 10 rebounds a game while earning all-league honors, is expected to be a key performer in the front court.
Other talented returnees include junior guard Katie Hoeg, senior guard Nicole Murphy and forwards Courtney Murphy, a sophomore, and Molly Kowalski, a junior.
“The system is in place for the most part,” Van Dood said. “We have to make a few tweaks here and there.”
And if that was not enough, he has six promising newcomers — all juniors — in guards Megan Daly, Samantha Perino, Kelli Stepnoski and Christine Bieber, forward Hallie Kujawski and center Sydney Goy.
“We look to continue the success of last year,” said Van Dood, adding that Southampton was going to be the Class B team to beat since it captured the county championship.
Mattituck will not have Lauren Guja, one of the team’s top players from last season. She opted not to play this year, Van Dood said.
The Tuckers will begin discovering their potential as they open their season against Centereach at home at 12:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1.