Fox Chapel eyes redemption with deeper team
Fox Chapel girls basketball players still remember the empty feeling, tears burning their eyes, as they walked out of North Allegheny's gym after a quarterfinal loss to Mt. Lebanon last winter.
But they also remember the thoughts that followed. Redemption was only one offseason away.
“Since the last second went off last year against Mt. Lebanon, the girls have been hungry and eager to get back to it,” Foxes coach Meghan Meabon said. “They are ready to go back to work.”
And they'll clock in with big-game experience and three returning starters including 6-foot-3 senior center Erin Mathias, a Duke recruit who put up 17.3 points and 13.6 rebounds a game as a junior.
Fox Chapel finished 18-6 last season and shared the Section 2-AAAA title with Gateway.
“This is the best that I have seen Erin run,” Meabon said. “She has done a tremendous job bouncing back from missing her sophomore season (because of a minor knee injury). She has really focused on strength and cardio in the offseason. The girls seem to be doing a better job looking for her.”
Mathias will be the only senior starter — and will look like a blinking cell-phone tower above a skyline of smaller guards — but those guards can play deceivingly big.
Taylor Cohen and Kayla Slovenec made immediate impacts last season as freshmen and once again will be crucial to the team's success.
“They don't seem so anxious with the ball,” Meabon said.
They will be joined by another up-and-coming talent in freshman point guard Gabby Badway.
“She is a promising player for us and we're pleased with how she fits into our system,” Meabon said. “You'll see her a lot on the court. We're still shuffling some players around and finding a lineup that will work for us.”
The Foxes again will depend on a transition game, but Meabon wants to develop more shooting threats.
“We could have a run-and-gun type of team,” she said. “I think we can be a better shooting team. Teams are going to go zone and pack it in on Erin.”
Sophomore forward Anna Kelly, who saw action last season, will play, along with junior guard Madison Chajson, and the Palumbo sisters, Alanna and Alissa, who are juniors.
Another contributor will be Vanessa Blazer, a junior varsity player last year.
“We're a young team, so they'll be the mistakes and learning moments,” Meabon said. “This is the deepest we've been since I have been here, especially with guards. But we have the potential to develop into a nice team.”
Fox Chapel opens against Burrell, a title-contender in Class AA, in the Seneca Valley Tournament.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.