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Young players to play key role for Seton Hill women's basketball team

Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review - Seton Hill women's basketball coach Ferne Labati talks with her squad during a timeout against California (Pa.) on Nov. 25, 2012.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Eric Schmadel  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Seton Hill women's basketball coach Ferne Labati talks with her squad during a timeout against California (Pa.) on Nov. 25, 2012.
Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review - Seton Hill guard Kelly Brennan is fouled by Cal U guard Chelsea McKnight during their November 25, 2012 contest in Greensburg.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em> Eric Schmadel  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Seton Hill guard Kelly Brennan is fouled by Cal U guard Chelsea McKnight during their November 25, 2012 contest in Greensburg.

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Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

It's Meghan In The Middle for the Seton Hill women's basketball team.

The Griffins entered the season as an intriguing melding of four experienced upperclassmen — a group of five players who had combined for a grand total of 383 college minutes — and Meghan Mastroianni.

Mastroianni, a 5-foot-8 guard, was Seton Hill's first option off the bench last season and has moved into the starting lineup this season.

Taking her out of the narrative for the Griffins' 2012-13 campaign, Seton Hill needs its younger players to seize supporting roles around a solid veteran nucleus of Paige Alviani, Tiara Stossel, Katie Gattuso and Clare Berenato.

“We feel if we can be deep, we will be a very good team,” coach Ferne Labati said.

“If our freshmen mature — they're very good players — we will have an opportunity to be very successful in the WVIAC this year.”

Seton Hill's season is its final one in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference before joining the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference in 2013.

With four of the top five scorers back, the Griffins believe their farewell tour can be a fruitful one.

“We really want to win the WVIAC title and go out strong,” Alviani said.

Alviani, a Hopewell High School graduate, led Seton Hill in scoring as a sophomore last season with 15.5 points per game. The 5-8 Alviani serves as the Griffins' point guard and top assist player.

“Paige can shoot the 3-point shot, Paige can penetrate and get to the rim and Paige can pass the basketball,” Labati said. “So she's very important in our offense in all aspects.

“Last year, everybody keyed on Paige, and this year with the increased depth, we're trying to alleviate that and create more opportunities for her to get a good look at the basket because last year it was very difficult for her to get a good look at the basket.”

That depth was fortified by the addition of freshmen Geena Shrader, Jharrin Gill and Kelly Brennan. Brennan, a 5-7 guard and North Allegheny alum, redshirted last season due to injury but started the first two games of this season.

Monessen graduate Shrader is a 5-8 guard and Hopewell alum Gill is a 5-5 guard.

Guard Megan Mignogna and 5-10 guard/forward Mallory Sanner, a Uniontown native, are sophomores who played sparingly as freshmen last season but are taking on increased roles.

“The freshmen and sophomores are stepping up,” Alviani said. “We've really come together as a team and helped the freshmen pick up the system. ... They don't really act like freshmen.”

Seton Hill needs its younger players to act older because there is only one senior on the roster. Berenato, a 5-10 forward, is the daughter of Pitt women's basketball coach Agnus Berenato. She and Alviani share the role of the Griffins' vocal leaders, Labati said.

Another Seton Hill player who has a coach parent is Gattuso. A 6-0 forward and Seton-La Salle graduate, her father, Greg, is the defensive line coach for the University of Maryland football team.

Katie Gattuso leads Seton Hill in scoring through four games with 14.3 ppg. Stossel, a 5-8 junior guard from Indiana High School, is third on the team behind Alviani with 9.3 ppg.

“When you've got a team where you have a lot of young kids, they've blended in extremely well off the court with the upperclassmen,” Labati said. “It's just a matter of time and getting game experience before they really, really jell.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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