The future is now for Bishop Canevin girls basketball
By Nathan Smith
Published: Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, 12:39 p.m.
What does Bishop Canevin girls basketball coach Tim Joyce want to see from his team this season?
After capturing the PIAA Class AA title last season, the team is rebuilding with a majority of the playersbeing underclassmen. The Crusaders have only three upperclassmen on the roster. Despite relying on a large group of sophomores – and even a freshman – with limited experience, the team is off to an 11-3 start
“We are really inconsistent,” Joyce said. “Its growing pains. We see flashes of it so it gives you hope. I have to keep reminding myself how young we are.”
Outside of the team's three upperclassmen – senior guards Caroline DeFrank and Johnie Olkosky and junior guard Natashia Rajakovich – only one player has gotten significant time on the floor in the past.
Gina Vallecorsa is playing well beyond her age. The 5-foot-8 sophomore forward was a starter last season on the team's trek to the WPIAL and PIAA titles. Playing alongside last season's seniors – Celina DiPietro, Carly Forse and Erin Waskowiak – was an experience that is paying dividends now.
“It helped me a lot,” Vallecorsa said. “Coming from grade school to high school varsity basketball, they helped me transition. They were great leaders.
In addition to Vallecorsa, 6-foot-3 center Becca Turney has been a force for the Crusaders. Creating a mismatch in the paint against many opponents, she has been a threat on both ends of the court. Sophomore guard Erin Joyce – coach Tim Joyce's daughter – has shown the ability to hit shots from beyond the arc.
Others athletes such as sophomore Riley O'Donnell and freshman Sarah Green have both put in important minutes the bench.
“The future is pretty bright,” Joyce said. “There is a lot of hope with this team. We had to change a lot of stuff this year from what we have done in the past to fit our personnel. We just need to keep working at it.”
The underclassmen have said the biggest aspect of this team that has helped them improve is the guidance of the team's seniors. DeFrank and Olkosky have been in the program for four years and their presence on the court has evevated the younger players games.
“(Olkosky) and (DeFrank) have helped us a lot,” Turney said. “They made me feel welcomed when I came in. (DeFrank) has great ball handling skills and (Olkosky) has guarded me a at practice which has helped me get better. They're great leaders. (Vallecorsa) has helped a lot too.”
The Crusaders picked up maybe their most impressive win of the season last week as they defeated Shaler, 44-43, Saturday after Green hit a layup at the buzzer. Vallecorsa led Bishop Canevin with 11 points. Olkosky added 11. It was a strong win over a Class AAAA squad whose only other loss this season was to North Allegheny.
Shaler was just one of several challenging out-of-section opponents Bishop Canevin has faced. Scheduling the likes of Chartiers Valley, Our Lady of Sacred Heart, Hollidaysburg, South Fayette, Vincentian Academy and Villa Maria Academy has the coaching staff hoping it will help the young players to grow up fast.
“These games are good for preparing us for our section games against Seton-La Salle, Brentwood and Fort Cherry,” Turney said. “It is always better to play someone good and maybe lose than beat someone by 20 points.”
Despite the team looking strong at times, Joyce said his squad still has a lot of growing to do. While he has seen flashes, he said he has yet to see the Crusaders put it together for a full 32 minutes.
“We have lost a couple games where we didn't play well,” Joyce said. “But the way I see it, we haven't put a whole game together yet. We're not concerned about going undefeated. We want to get better.”
And when the Crusaders finally put together a full 32 minutes, Class AA better be on notice.
“We will be pretty good for the next two or three years,” Vallecorsa said. “We're only going to get better.”
Bishop Canevin returns to the court tonight, Thursday, as it travels to Wilkinsburg for a 7:30 start.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.
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