With rejuvenated roster, Burrell girls hope to build on last year's playoff run
Many times, Burrell's girls basketball players get the final say-so.
From assistant coach Mark Ziemianski taking a vacation trip to Italy, to head coach Meghan Ziemianski shopping for a new car, the players want to be involved in the decision-making process.
It's in their nature.
“I mean, if we (coaches) want to do anything, we have to ask the girls first,” Meghan Ziemianski said with a smile. “They want to be at the gym. They don't want anything to interfere with practice time.
“I don't think I'll ever see a team with their work ethic again in my coaching lifetime.”
Facing perhaps the highest preseason expectations in program history, Burrell also hopes to win by committee.
With some much-needed roster additions to complement an already sound and experienced rotation, Burrell could be in for another lengthy playoff run. The Bucs return all five starters from a team that went 24-4 and reached the WPIAL Class AA semifinals for the first time since 1994.
The Bucs also won a pair of state playoff games for the first time in school history.
A repeat run of success will start with bookend scorers Sydney Bordonaro, a junior point guard, and 5-foot-11 sophomore forward Natalie Myers.
Bordonaro averaged 14.4 points and 5.5 assists per game last season and last week verbally committed to Division I Pepperdine. Myers averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds in her first year as a starter.
The duo presents opponents with a viable one-two scoring punch.
Others with big-game experience include senior 6-1 center Jessica Cercone, senior guards Jaila Manga and Kelsey Oddis, and junior guard Erika Finn. That group saw action in six playoff games.
Oddis recently committed to Pitt-Greensburg.
“We always say we start six girls,” Ziemianski said. “Our sixth girl could start for a lot of other teams.”
Last year, Burrell couldn't field a junior varsity team, and practices were limited because of the small roster numbers. Coaches, had to scrimmage with the team.
But a larger turnout not only has brought JVs back, it also has added depth.
“We're not the Bad News Bears any more with our six girls,” Ziemianski said.
Juniors Abby Nitowski and Abby Pattock (5-10) are expected to contribute, and four freshmen will join the mix: Eliza Oswalt, Nicole Kristof, Brooke Smith and Lizzie Weimer.
“And they're no slouches,” Ziemianski said. “Our seniors will set the absolute best example for them.”
Defense was a strength last season as the Section 1-champion Bucs allowed just 29.3 points per game.
Burrell has another tough out-of-section schedule that includes stops in the Seneca Valley Tip-off Tournament — where it opens against Fox Chapel — and the State College Tournament.
Much like last year, the team spent most of the summer together and fared well against upper-class competition in exhibition shootouts.
“It's nice when you can go into (preseason) shootouts and know that you can play with any of the other teams,” Ziemianski said. “They can walk into the gym and turn it on.”
Former standout forward Courtney Kordes, who played for Ziemianski at Highlands, joins the Burrell coaching staff.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.