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Young Bishop Canevin girls basketball team not changing expectations

| Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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Johnie Olkosky is one of two seniors on the Bishop Canevin girls basketball team.

Don't let the youth on the Bishop Canevin girls basketball roster fool you – the Crusaders are still talented.

Despite only having three upperclassmen on the roster, the defending PIAA Class AA champion walked away from the Oakland Catholic Tipoff Tournament last weekend with a pair of wins.

“There are times when they play really well,” Bishop Canevin coach Tim Joyce said. “I am happy with how we played. We got sloppy at times. Sometimes what happens with a young team is they don't realize they need to keep doing the things that got you the lead.”

The Crusaders defeated Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, 50-42, to open the tournament. The Trojans pulled within six points in the third quarter but the Bishop Canevin defense held them scoreless for over seven minutes over the end of the third quarter and into the fourth. Senior Johnie Olkosky led the team with 19 points, sophomores Erin Joyce and Gina Vallecorsa added 10 each.

On the second day of the tournament, the Crusaders defeated Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, 46-34. After a 32-32 tie at halftime, Bishop Canevin outscored the Chargers, 12-6, in the third quarter to pull away.

Vallecorsa led the team with 14 points, Olkosky added 12 and sophomore Becca Turney had 10.

“It was really important for us to get the season off on the right foot,” senior Caroline DeFrank said. “We have a tough schedule, so getting some wins early should give us confidence.”

It was a strong start to the season. The defending WPIAL and PIAA Class AA champion took a blow when it lost three starting seniors to graduation – Erin Waskowiak committed to Duquesne and Carly Forse and Celina DiPietro have started for Point Park.

The team only returned four players with any kind of experience at the varsity level – Olkosky has started the previous two years while Vallecorsa started last season. DeFrank and junior Natahshia Rajakovich have come off the bench in previous seasons.

The two senior members knew coming in they would have to guide the seven underclassmen on the roster.

“I need to be a leader,” Olkosky said. “I had great leaders when I was an underclassmen and learned a lot from them. I learned so much from them. I need to be a good captain.”

While the sophomore class is largely inexperienced at the varsity level, it has potential.

Led by Vallecorsa – who started every game for the Crusaders last season – who offers a presence on both ends of the court, the group also includes 6-foot-3 center Turney and guard Erin Joyce – daughter of coach Tim Joyce – who has the ability to hit shots from beyond the arc.

Sophomore forward Riley O'Donnell and freshman guard Sarah Green also showed the ability to provide strong minutes off the bench.

“It is going to be about consistency this season, especially on defense,” Joyce said. “Sometimes they don't value our possessions enough. We just need to keep progressing. They'll get there.”

And once they do, the rest of Class AA should be put on notice.

“A lot of teams are going to underestimate us this year,” Olkosky said. “But we're good. We're a young team and we have a lot to prove.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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