Saturday, January 28, 2023

Hawks ready for challenge

Hawken enters the 2018-2019 season with three returning starters and five seniors. The Hawks will lean on that experience as they face the challenge of playing in the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division this season.

“One of our greatest challenges is moving from the Valley Division to the Chagrin Division of the CVC,” said third-year Hawken coach David Murray. “Not only does that mean playing against significantly larger schools, but schools with which we are less familiar from a tactical standpoint. We are also relatively inexperienced at the varsity level. Our success will be predicated on how quickly our newer players can acclimate, as we are going to be reliant on their skills and athleticism.”

To improve on their 12-11 record from last winter, the Hawks will have to develop in a hurry and play at a high level every time they step on the floor.

The good news for Murray is his players seem willing to do just that.

“I am extremely excited about the potential of our team,” Murray said. “We have an outstanding group of girls who enter the gym every day with an infectious level of enthusiasm. Right now, our goal is to go out and improve every day, individually and collectively.”

Again, Murray will lean on his seniors to provide the leadership for the rest of the squad, which includes a talented group of freshmen.

“Senior leadership is one of our greatest strengths this year,” he said. “We have five seniors who have been in the program for four years. They have done a terrific job thus far, on and off the court. We are going to rely heavily on their experience and maturity. We also have an exceptionally talented freshman class. I am particularly grateful for their enthusiasm and dedication. We are going to look to them for significant contributions this year.”

Zaria Johnson, Taylor Smith, Erinn Slotta, Grace Maicki and Maria Murphy are the seniors.

Johnson, a 5-foot-7 guard, and Smith, a 5-foot-10 forward, are returning starters. Johnson averaged 7.5 points, 2.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game in earning second team all-league honors. Smith scored 4.6 points with 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per contest.

“Zee is our catalyst on the court, both on the offensive and defensive ends. She is one of the hardest working players I have had the privilege of coaching. It is impossible to understate her value to our program and how reliant we will be on her leadership,” Murray said. “Taylor is a dominant force around the basket who has worked hard to improve upon her perimeter game. We are looking forward to a healthy and productive senior season from Taylor.”

Slotta, a 5-foot-8 forward, averaged just one point and one block per game last winter but she excels in a leadership role.

“Throughout high school, Erinn has developed into a leader in the girls’ basketball program and greater Hawken community,” Murray said. “She has a captivating vocal presence and is unwavering in her commitment to the team.”

Maicki is a 5-foot-7 guard who averaged one assist, one rebound and two steals per game as a junior and Murphy is a 5-foot-7 forward.

“Grace is a tremendously athletic player who has worked to improve her basketball skills. We are going to rely on her defensive tenacity and ability to run the court,” Murray said. “Maria is one of the most cerebral players our program. She has an exceptional understanding of what we are trying to accomplish, offensively and defensively.”

The Hawks have three juniors on the roster including Rose Zeldin, a 5-foot-8 forward.

Zeldin is a returning starter who averaged 1.0 points, 0.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 0.4 blocks per game last season.

“Rose is one of the most athletic players and toughest competitors in our program,” Murray said. “Last year, she was an anchor of our defense and we are looking for her to improve upon that performance this year.”

Erica Emig, a 5-foot-10 forward, and Violet Giglio, a 5-foot-3 guard, are the other juniors.

“After missing last year due to an injury, we are extremely excited to have Erica back on the court. Erica is a talented post player who has great versatility and range for a player of her height,” Murray said. “Violet is the epitome of everything we preach regarding attitude and effort. She is a natural leader who is unwavering in her support of her teammates.”

Freshmen Lilly Wolf, Julianna Pollard, Makayla White and Maya Dori also are expected to contribute for the Hawks this winter.

Pollard (5-3) and Dori (5-5) will play in the backcourt.

“I cannot express how grateful we are to have Julianna in our program. She is a dedicated basketball player and a tough competitor. She is the consummate gym rat, always working to improve her skills,” Murray said. “Maya has a pure and unbridled passion for the game of basketball. She is one of the most dedicated players in our program. Maya is always one of the first girls in the gym before practice, and one of the last to leave.”

Wolfe (5-10) and White (5-9) are forwards.

“Lilly is a talented basketball player and gifted all-around athlete. She has exceptional court-awareness and has the ability to play inside-out,” Murray said. “Makayla is one of the most physically gifted athletes I have ever coached. She is relatively new to basketball and has virtually unlimited potential. She is the epitome of hard work and toughness.”

Hawken isn’t in a rebuilding season but the Hawks do hope to use this season to develop a culture grounded on hard-work, commitment and service to others.

The Hawks will continue to work hard and focus on bringing the right effort and attitude to every game and practice.

Success could follow.

“The keys to a successful season will be effort and communication on the defensive end of the court and execution on the offensive end,” Murray said.

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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