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New St. Joseph girls coach brings run-and-gun style of offense

| Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, 11:42 p.m.
St. Joseph senior forward Mallory Heinle

St. Joseph not only brings a new face to the sidelines, but also a new idea on how to score points this season.

“I'm more of an old school run-and-gun type,” first-year coach Sally Ackerman said. “I do like pressuring, and I do like forcing the opponents to make mistakes. I like to score off of those mistakes.”

Ackerman spent the last three seasons as one of the team's assistants.

“The first thing I remembered was that I lost only one senior,” Ackerman said. “I knew a lot about how they liked to play. I tried to come up with a scheme to help me take advantage of their strengths on offense and on defense.”

The Spartans went 11-14 last season (7-5 in Section 2-A). That was good enough for a playoff spot and an upset of No. 5 Avella. St. Joseph fell to Quigley in the quarterfinals.

A key returnee is fourth-year starter Mallory Heinle. The 6-foot forward and Slippery Rock recruit has been a key part of the Spartans' offense since she arrived.

This year will be more of the same.

“There are some strengths that we didn't take advantage of with her in past years,” Ackerman said. “I think it will be fun and exciting to see how much her game is going to mature.”

Seniors Nikki Mielecki, Amanda Klawinski and Brooke Arabia, and junior Julie Hetu complete the starting lineup.

Staying fresh with that type of offense requires a deep bench. It's something Ackerman already has accounted for.

Freshmen Jeana Luciana, Lizzy Celko and Patty Jo Nickoloff are going to see their share of playing time.

“I'm using those girls to eat up a lot of minutes if we're going to play that type of game,” Ackerman said. “They're going to need breaks. There are enough minutes to go around for those girls.”

Defensively, Ackerman would like her team to be one other teams hate to play against.

“It matters. Even the best players make mistakes when you stay in their face,” Ackerman said. “They'll do something that gives you that turnover.”

The change in philosophy is two-fold. Not only does Ackerman think it best utilizes the talent she has, but it also is reminiscent of some of the top teams in Class A. It doesn't appear to be a coincidence to Ackerman.

“Some of the teams who went to the playoffs the last few years, almost all of those teams run-and-gun, and they run the press,” Ackerman said. “Vincentian runs it every time we see them. Serra Catholic runs it a lot.”

Vincentian, who also plays in the Section 2-A, won the WPIAL title last season. Serra Catholic was the Class A runner-up.

Dave Yohe is a freelance writer.

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