Senior wing Brittney Hale hopes to carry over the winning ways from the volleyball team to the hardwood this winter. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
December 05, 2011MOULTONBORO – It was a magical season for the Moultonboro Academy girls' basketball team last winter, as the Lady Panthers made it all the way to the Division IV state championship game before falling to Groveton at Plymouth State.
Fast-forward a year, and while MA lost several key players, there are still a few familiar faces that will look to lead the Panthers to another deep postseason run.
One new face to the scene is first-year head coach Mike Andriski, who comes over to MA after spending last year as an assistant coach for the Inter-Lakes boys' program. Andriski also had a successful stint at Laconia High School and should bring that experience to the Panthers sideline.
"It's a new system with a lot of new kids but they're responding to it," said Andriski, who takes over for veteran coach Chuck Kenney. "I had about five weeks in the summer with them and got to know a few of the kids. But now it's so different when you're calling the shots and running practices every single day."
Senior wing Brittney Hale returns to the fold, fresh off a state championship with the volleyball team, and she's joined in the senior class by Julia Schmidt, who hasn't played since sophomore year but should help out in the post.
The junior class has all sorts of talent, led by point guard Lexi Welch, off-guard Megan Uehlein and forward Kaitlin Slippy. The trio all saw time on the varsity last year, with Uehlein and Slippy logging big minutes during the tournament run. Welch looks to step into the starting point guard role vacated by graduated senior Ashley McDonald.
"I think she'll do a nice job, she just has to get some confidence now and play," said Andriski of Welch. "She's starting to understand what we want to do.
"(Uehlein) brings it to another level defensively," he continued. "She's very aggressive and the other kids start to feed off of that."
Hale, Welch and Uehlein will serve as the team's captains.
Sisters Kim and Courtney Delaney are both expected to aid the lineup as combo players, while junior Ashley Stockwell (forward) comes over after transferring from Belmont.
The sophomore class should also help, as wings Rachael Duddy and Kes Baker, guard Jessica Hiittner and forward/center Aly Lively will all figure into the mix, with Lively looking like the early season starter at center. Freshman Julia St. Amand is expected to serve as the backup point guard.
"Having (Lively) at the five lets me move Brittney to the wing which is the ideal spot for her," said Andriski.
One tough loss for MA is the departure of would-be sophomore Morgan Fuller, who led the Panthers in scoring and rebounding as a freshman last season. Fuller enrolled at Brewster Academy this fall.
Andriski does have the benefit of a team full of volleyball players that won the state crown last month, and he hopes that winning formula can translate to the hardwood.
"They want to win," he began. "The volleyball kids had that taste and you hope that can carry over. With our eight-man rotation, we have two sophomores and a freshman in there so far. The future is bright. It's going to take a little while for them to get used to it but I think we're moving in that right direction."
With the key losses from last year, MA is going to have to find offense from new sources, as the team will look to replace the 70 percent of its scoring lost from last season.
"We're going to have to start scoring collectively," Andriski said. "Right now, no one wants to take that shot and there's a lot of over passing because everyone is trying to be too perfect."
But despite that, the Panthers have played well together so far, and that's something the new coach hopes will be a constant throughout the winter.
"There's good chemistry there so far, the older girls have accepted the younger kids," said Andriski. "They're trying to help each other get through. Every day is a learning experience so we'll see what happens once we get into the season."
The Panthers opened their schedule after deadline on Tuesday night against Nute, with an away tilt at Sunapee scheduled for Friday night.