BVA girls more than simply Kaitlyn Slagus
Any team preparing to play the Belle Vernon Area girls' basketball team undoubtedly wonders how it will stop Kaitlyn Slagus.
The problem is, more so than past years, the Leopards are a lot more than the 6–2 Bucknell recruit.
“We are a lot more than one player,” BVA coach Lisa Fairman said. “We are much stronger around Kaitlyn. That's something that we've worked very hard on.
“We have six seniors that are a very close group and they all know what I expect of them and what they'll be able to give this team. We're not one dimensional, it's not about one player ... it's about the team.”
Fairman said that between the six, she'll put together a starting five. Besides Slagus, she'll have Bria Rathway, Kaitlin Thomas, Samantha Mendicino, Meaghan Murphy and Lauren Planey to choose from. Each bringing something to the floor.
“Bria is a college athlete, she's going to go somewhere and will play at the next level,” she said of the 5–9 guard. “She's worked very hard on her game. And for a guard of her height, she gets in there and bangs the boards. With her it's been about consistency and the expectation of what we can count on game in and game out, and she's worked on that a lot.
“The pressure is on every one of us, not just her. She knows that if she has a bad game, everyone has each other's back.”
Slagus has developed an all-around game and worked hard on her jump shot, so teams shouldn't be surprised to see her stepping behind the 3-point line or nailing jump shots.
“When she was a freshman I saw something in her that I don't even think she saw in herself,” Fairman said. “That was her confidence. She stays after practice or shooting in the driveway, she's just an overall great player.”
When Slagus does move away from the basket, teams will still have to deal with Murphy.
“She's a monster on the boards,” Fairman said. “Absolutely relentless. ... I trust in Kaitlyn's ability to work away from the hoop because I know I have Meaghan banging on the inside. She's greatly improved and she's aggressive and goes after it.”
Fairman looks for her guards to play an intricate role in the team's success.
“Kaitlyn and Sam have experience now and are interchangable at the one and two spots,” Fairman said. “Their experience has really brought out the confidence in themselves.
“And we also have Lauren that can handle the ball and really defend.”
Fairman expects a lot of the younger girls to provide quality minutes, including six freshmen: Keira Boff, Rylie Campbell, Kelsey Green, Heavan Hester, Taylor Kovatch and Caitlyn Trombley.
“I had the freshmen play in a fall league at Greensburg Central Catholic,” Fairman said. “They may have only won one or two games, but just the experience and growth I've seen in them has been amazing.
“I have some juniors and sophomores, too, that we're looking for contributions from. It helps that when the younger girls get in the game, they have three or four seniors that are there to support them and that helps them believe in themselves. Practices have been intense. The younger girls are learning from the older girls, but the older girls are also being pushed by the younger girls, so both are working really hard.”
The varsity roster also includes juniors Alyssa Larson, Taylor Pfrogner and Zoe Zadrozny and sophomores Ashley Russell, Caitlyn Szakal and Sophie Yantko.
“I tell my girls that we go one game at a time,” Fairman said. “We have expectations of what we want. We have to go out and earn it.”
Fairman said with Slagus deciding on her college early, the forward can focus on what matters most.
“It's her senior year. That's what she needs to focus on,” Fairman said. “We had an idea that she was going to make her decision before the season. It's behind her now. Her success has come from her hard work and dedication, and I expect she's going to have a great season.”
Many have predicted the Leopards will come out as champions in Section 4-AAA, but Fairman said her team must earn it and that nothing will be easy.
“Every game is going to be difficult,” Fairman said. “Ringgold is a team that will be reckoned with and they have a D-1 recruit of their own. Thomas Jefferson has some experience back and some young talent. South Park has had a great deal of success and EF has (Abigail) Sporio and a lot of talented girls back. West Mifflin has a good program and even Brownsville has some special players. I have respect for every coach and team out there. It's going to be a tough section.”
Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2667.