North Catholic's experience a concern for young Serra girls squad
Looking up and down North Catholic's schedule, Bill Cleary quickly came to the obvious conclusion.
“They sure are battle-tested,” said Cleary as his voice trailed off.
Are they ever.
Forget that North Catholic is a win away from its fifth consecutive WPIAL Class A championship game appearance when the No. 3 Trojanettes (15-9) take on No. 4 Serra (22-2) at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Keystone Oaks, it would be hard-pressed to find a team that had a more difficult schedule than North Catholic this year.
• Six of their nine losses have come against 20-win teams.
• Lost to Blackhawk (24-0), Seton-La Salle (23-1) and Vincentian (23-1) twice — all top seeds in the playoffs.
• Six losses were to teams still in the WPIAL playoffs.
• Lost games to teams with a combined 181-32 record.
Even though North Catholic has yet to have that signature win, Cleary is leery of who they've played.
“They played a tough schedule, that's for sure,” Cleary said. “I guess we will have to wait and see how that plays out.”
It isn't a surprise that Cleary would notice the quality of teams North Catholic has played, especially when that's been his biggest concern about his team for the better part of a month.
Since the new year (18 games), Serra has played only three teams with winning records — West Greene, Belle Vernon and Winchester Thurston twice. Both of Serra's playoff wins came against teams with losing records.
Add that the majority of Serra's playoff experience before this year was a first-round loss to Cornell last year, and you would think Cleary would be concerned.
“It seems like we have always been able to rise to the occasion with the challenge in front of us,” Cleary said. “We tend to relax against teams that can't compete with us. I am sure North Catholic will pique their interest.”
It's not like the Eagles haven't been tested. It's just they haven't been tested recently.
Serra played Vincentian, Quigley and Greensburg Central Catholic within a span of nine days early in the season and came away with two wins. They also went on the road and beat Trinity convincingly near the end of the season — the same team North Catholic lost to two weeks ago.
“We did go on the road at the end of the season at Trinity and at Fort Cherry and did well,” Cleary said. “The past couple years it hasn't worked to our advantage (to play top-notch teams near the end of the season). We play the best we can find out there.”
Serra has done pretty well against the team it has played, and with a win over North Catholic, the Eagles will return to the championship game for the first time in seven years.
“The girls are really low-key about this all,” Cleary said. “They have had a nice even temperament all season long. This is the round we wanted to be in when the season started so I think we will be OK.”
Serra features a young team that's hasn't had much success before this year.
The top four scorers — Megan Sieg (12.5), Katie Sieg (11), Nicole Pero (10), Leslie Hoye (10) — are underclassmen. Jessie Manfredi is the only senior starter.
“We spread our points around,” Cleary said. “We don't have that dominant scorer, but we can run 10 at you.”
Cleary will use Lauren Czerwien, Brooke McCallister, Lindsay Muschar, Danielle Dindak and Kayla Webster off the bench.
“We are going to have to play good, solid half-court defense and rebound well,” Cleary said.
Cleary is worried about 5-foot-10 guard Lauren Wolosik, who finished with 28 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in a playoff victory over Frazier. She followed that with 21 points against Cornell in the quarterfinals.
“She really hasn't had any off-scoring nights,” Cleary said. “It has always been 20 and above. She is a good defender and rebounder and really an overall good player. She is really a do-it-all player.”
Wolosik, a Central Connecticut recruit, is averaging 26.9 points per game and has played in 23 postseason games in her four-year career.
The rest of North Catholic's roster is young, highlighted by freshmen guards Abby Goetz and Mikaela Palmer.