Former Derry player Zemba returns to coach girls basketball team
The Derry girls basketball program hasn't had a winning season since the 2007-08 campaign, which necessitated a change in coaching.
The Trojans will be led by first-year head coach Rich Zemba, who has come back to his alma mater, will help restore the prominence to the Derry girls basketball program.
Zemba, who graduated from Derry in 1986 and was a three-year varsity basketball player for the legendary Harry Miller, openly admits he doesn't have much coaching experience at the varsity level.
“I'm not trying to look back. I know I have a lot of athletes on my team. I have a bunch of players who are two- and three-sport athletes,” Zemba said. “I'm just trying to change the attitudes of the girls. I'm not saying anything wrong was going before. But I want to the girls to just have fun out there.”
Zemba, who was part of the 1986 state champion volleyball team, has coached the middle school girls team the past two seasons and has been involved with the travel and recreation program in the Derry Area School District for the past six years.
The Trojans, who finished last season 5-17 overall and 2-10 in Section 3-AAA, will be led by senior forward Courtney Meyer, who averaged close to 10 points last season, and junior guard Morgan Roble.
“I think the girls came out to the court and feared to make any mistakes,” Zemba said. “There are times they couldn't get the ball over half court last year. I just want them to go out and have some fun playing basketball. It's a team sport.”
Zemba expects to see Meyer increase her points per game to the mid-teens Roble to lead the team again with around five assists per game.
Derry (1-1) will not have the services of three crucial starters from a year ago due to graduation. Forward Jess Harshell and guards Stephanie Joe and Cara Krinock will be replaced this season by sophomore forwards Madison DeLuca and Katerina Hamerski and senior Nichole Klapehar.
Klapehar, who also plays soccer, decided to pick up a basketball this season after hearing Zemba was going to be the coach. First off the bench for the Trojans will be Courtney Meyer's twin sister, Kaitlyn, and junior forward Ashley McGraw.
“We are pretty quick team so we would like to get out on the fast break,” Zemba said. “(On defense), we are more of a zone-type of team. We didn't do much full-court press in the past, but we need to switch it up.”
When it comes to how the Trojans will fare in section play this year, Zemba remains optimistic that his team could surprise and possibly knock off one of the top four teams in Section 3-AAA.
“There are seven teams in our section. Going into the season, I told the team our goal is to finish fourth in the section,” Zemba said. “I know it's a rebuilding year, but we have some athleticism on our team.
“We need to somehow or some way knock off one of the top four teams and get in the fourth spot.”
Derry has started to get a read on how things might shape up in the section after playing and seeing two other members of Section 3-AAA during the Southmoreland Tournament.
Courtney Meyer led the Trojans with 22 points in a 38-13 win over Southmoreland last Saturday.
The Trojans also got a good test to open their season by facing a talented Elizabeth Forward team last Friday. Derry lost to Elizabeth Forward, 62-13.
They will get an early test in section play when they go on the road to face Uniontown, last year's section champions, on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Andrew John is a freelance writer.