Same expectations for Monessen Lady Greyhounds
A new basketball season may be getting ready to tip off, but the expectations never change for the Monessen Lady Greyhounds.
Just ask fourth-year Monessen head coach Gina Naccarato.
“Our (first) goal is to win the section,” said Naccarato, who helped establish such lofty goals when she played in the 1990s, scoring 3,364 points, which remains the all-time WPIAL record.
“We also want to qualify for both the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs.”
Naccarato hopes to continue a run that began with her predecessor, legendary coach Major Corley, as Monessen has made the WPIAL playoffs in each of the last 23 seasons.
A major factor in the team reaching the goals in Section 4 A will be the senior one-two punch of guard Mariah Ward and guard/forward Chelsea Szakal.
Ward averaged 20.9 points and 3.3 assists per game a season ago while Szakal contributed 12.1 and 7.9 rebounds a game before injuring her ACL.
Ward has 1,089 points for her career while Szakal has 558.
Naccarato says that the pair will have to be the leaders.
“They will be the leaders on the floor during the game because they are the ones with the most experience as far as playing time goes,” she said. “They will be surrounded by three others who didn't get a lot of varsity experience, so Mariah and Chelsea will have to guide them.”
Naccarato is happy with how Szakal has worked hard to recover from her injury. The coach hopes to have her cleared for action by the start of the season.
“She worked hard all summer to get back for the first day of practice,” Naccarato said. “She is actually ahead of schedule in her progress.”
Junior forward Monet Wade was a spot starter a season ago and is in the lineup along with junior guard-forward Eden Holland and senior guard Asyaa Davis.
Other players expected to see playing time include senior forward Edzarae Bell and a pair of sophomores, guard/forward Cara Grogan and guard Mariah Johnson.
So what does Monessen have to do to have a successful season while replacing three full-time starters and a part-time starter to graduation from a team that went 20-4?
“We have to play Monessen basketball,” Naccarato said matter-of-factly. “That means we have to run, press, and play good defense.
“And hopefully we can get some fans to attend games and support us. It really helps the girls on the floor to see a lot of fans in the seats.”
Naccarato feels that Clairton and Winchester Thurston are the other top teams in the section, which also includes Frazier, Geibel, and Serra Catholic.
“Both teams played us tough and have most of their players back,” she said of Clairton and Winchester Thurston.
“Serra should be good too.”
The Lady Hounds are in the McKeesport Tip-off Tournament next weekend.
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer.