Cal (Pa.) women's basketball looks to Bishop Canevin grad Gina Vallecorsa
After losing three starters from last season's team that won 30 games and advanced to the Division II Sweet 16, the Cal (Pa.) women's basketball team is looking for new players to pick up the slack. Bishop Canevin grad Gina Vallecorsa figures to be one of them.
Vallecorsa played in 27 of the Vulcans' 34 games in 2016-17, including 58 minutes over three NCAA Tournament games. For the season, she averaged 2.3 points and 1.7 rebounds over 9.2 minutes.
In Cal's first two games this season — both wins — she averaged 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in 19.0 minutes. But coach Jess Strom said she believes Vallecorsa will do much more as the season progresses.
“Last year, she was playing behind some pretty good upperclassmen,” Strom said. “It was a learning year. But coming into this season … her growth over the summer has been crazy. She's gotten so much better.”
One of those upperclassmen was point guard Miki Glenn, who in her four seasons guided Cal to 105 wins and a national championship while winning two PSAC West Player of the Year honors. Vallecorsa said she tried to learn all she could from Glenn and the other veterans.
“You just take everything they say and just work from it,” she said.
And work she did.
Strom said Vallecorsa stayed on campus over the summer to train. She improved on the usual skills — shooting and ballhandling — but also, in Strom's words, “changed her body,” getting stronger and quicker.
Vallecorsa said she also gained more confidence. She got more comfortable with her teammates and with her own game.
“I got the confidence I needed in my shot and taking the ball to the basket,” she said.
Added Strom: “She's willing to put in the time, and if you do that, you're going to be more confident.”
Vallecorsa offers versatility to the Vulcans' lineup. She can play shooting guard and both forward positions. At 5-foot-9, she creates matchup problems for opposing guards, and Strom often uses her in the post against smaller defenders.
Regardless of which position she fills, Vallecorsa figures to be on the floor a lot more this season, particularly in the early going. With senior and all-PSAC West first-teamer Seairra Barrett working her way back from injury, Shatara Parsons is the one seasoned player in Cal's lineup.
That leaves room for players like Vallecorsa to make an impression. Strom said she isn't putting pressure on Vallecorsa to put up gaudy stats, but she expects her to complement Parsons and Barrett.
“For us, it's not so much specific numbers,” Strom said, “but I want her to be solid. We lost a lot of experience. For us, it's important to have players like Gina you can rely on. She's very reliable.”
After a high school career that saw her play the bulk of the minutes every game, Vallecorsa grew antsy in her limited role last season. She is looking forward to having a bigger hand in Cal's fortunes this season, and she said she believes the Vulcans can contend for another PSAC West title.
“Once we get Seairra back and we all start to grow and become more comfortable playing with each other, we can have a pretty great season ahead of us,” she said.