With just two returning starters, Cardinal’s girls’ basketball team will rely on its defense to compete for the Chagrin Valley Conference Valley Division title this winter.
“Our scrimmages have been extremely encouraging,” said Cardinal coach Luke Kruse. “We started back at square one this season trying to build our defense back up and make that our focus this year. We’re not trying to outscore teams but to out defend and outwork them.”
The Huskies allowed nearly 42 points per game last season.
They’ll work hard to keep that number under 40 this winter.
“The girls have really bought into it and I think we have the athleticism to make that our cornerstone this year,” Kruse said of the defensive mindset. “That’s going to be a key to our success this year, buying into defense and bringing that effort for 32 minutes every game.”
Cardinal graduated its top two scorers from last year but the Huskies do return three of their five leading scorers in senior Hanna Traggiaiand juniors Ashley Gubanyar and Camille Cummins.
Gubanyar and Cummins are returning starters who averaged 6.0 and 5.5 points per game, respectively.
Cummins led the Huskies with seven rebounds and 2.7 assists per contest while Gubanyar hit a team-high 30 3-pointers.
“They’re two very good players,” Kruse said. “Camille was second team All-CVC last year and poised to make a leap this year and Ashley is going to have a real opportunity to shine.”
Traggiai averaged 5.7 points per game as a sophomore as Cardinal’s sixth man off the bench. She also led the Huskies by hitting 30-percent of her 3-point tries.
“She’s a very talented shooter and a good defender,” Kruse said. “She’s going to be a key contributor.”
Juniors Brittni Lawrence and Adriana Naples round out the starting lineup.
Lawrence averaged two points and two rebounds last season while Naples contributed with 1.8 points per contest.
“Brittni is a real nice post player who has looked good in the preseason,” Kruse said. “Adriana Naples is another talented junior that played both varsity and JV last year.”
Senior Virginia Travers, juniors Annamarie Pollack and Sydney Hahner and sophomore Abby Geesling will provide depth for the Huskies.
“We’re expecting to probably go nine deep this year,” Kruse said. “Virginia Travers missed most of last year with an injury but she’s ready to contribute this year and Annamarie Pollack led the JV team last year. Sydney Hahner is a good post player and Abby Geesling can help us after playing on JV last year.”
Kruse expects a seamless transition for the players making the leap from JV to varsity this season.
“They really have a nice camaraderie together and have history playing together back into the recreation leagues and I think they’re ready to come into their own,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll have much of a hiccup bringing them up. The process this year has gone really smoothly in the preseason because they have that familiarity with each other and are really close. They just love basketball and are really united and committed to the game.”
Cardinal hopes that early bond leads to more wins this season.
“I never want to put a number on things but our goals are to shoot for a winning record and contend for the CVC title,” Kruse said. “We’ll do our best to be ready to beat our rival Berkshire and hopefully win a game in the tournament. The CVC is always tough with Kirtland and Cuyahoga Heights and it looks like Berkshire is going to be tough this year too. I think we’ll be in the mix with those games and to compete for one of the top spots in the league.”
The Huskies open the season on Friday at Bristol.