After a thrilling run to the Class A finals last February, the Harrison girls basketball team is back for more this season and hoping to build on last year’s success. Although the club will feature a number of new faces, head coach Louis Kail is confident that the Huskies have the talent—and the drive—to accomplish big things.
Harrison returns eight girls from the team that fell in the section finals to league rival Rye a year ago, and Kail believes that the experience of last season’s deep playoff run has served his players well.
“I think it was huge, there’s a lot of excitement.” Kail told the Review. “Any time you can go on that type of ride with your teammates, you definitely see a lot of energy especially in the way the girls came out [in the preseason].”
Although Harrison did graduate a few players—most notably all-state selection Avery LaBarbera—the Huskies do have a number of key contributors returning, including juniors Victoria Lendino and Ashley Stagg.
With LaBarbera gone, Kail expects Stagg—a prolific perimeter player—to play a larger role in the offense this year. But even as the junior sharpshooter continues to develop, Kail cautioned, the Huskies won’t be reliant on a single offensive threat this year.
“Ashley did a great job last year, but she’s not going to have the same type of opportunities without having a playmaking guard in the mix, so she’s going to have to start to create her own opportunities,” the coach said. “But we don’t have one player who is going to be solely responsible out there, everyone on the team is going to have to help out, and so far I think the girls have really bought in.”
Lendino, Stagg and freshman Gabby Maraccini, who played a big role for the team last year, will be tasked with keeping the Huskies afloat in a competitive league that features reigning champion Rye and other tough foes in Byram Hills, Eastchester and Pelham. Over the last several years, Harrison’s league schedule has done wonders in terms of preparing the Huskies for the postseason, and Kail feels that this season will be no different.
“Rye is basically returning everyone, and they have two phenomenal players coming back,” he said. “Byram [Hills] was very young last year and will be better, Pelham has their top player coming back, and Eastchester is always a well-coached, tough team, so everyone is going to be tough.”
As the Huskies prepare for their Nov. 30 opener against Tappan Zee, Kail said his squad will need to focus on building cohesiveness and adjusting to new responsibilities.
“We want to improve every day, especially in terms of defending at a high level,” he said. “We’re still working on determining our roles and hoping that the girls are able to grow as individuals and as part of the team.”