Chagrin Falls returns three starters and four other varsity players from last season but the Tigers are expected to start two sophomores and a freshman this winter.
That relative youth has eighth-year coach Brittany Anderson cautiously optimistic heading into the 2017-2018 season.
“We are a very young team this season, with little varsity experience,” Anderson said. “Our goal is to take the season day by day, practice by practice, game by game. This group is incredibly positive and has a good work ethic. The potential for growth is there. We have to focus on improving each day and on a team mentality. If we do that, it will be a very rewarding season.”
The Tigers do have more height and team speed than in years past and Anderson plans to use those assets to her advantage.
“As a coach, I have to work to maximize these strengths as much as possible,” she said. “I have to put the team, and individuals, in the best possible situation for them to achieve the best outcome. We’ll have to play with the lineup a bit to get things to click into place. Our game plan will have to play up these strengths and our practice plans will help to reduce our weaknesses.”
Sophomore guards Carolyn Bencko and Bella Dalessandro return after impressive freshmen seasons.
Dalessandro earned honorable mention All-CVC and All-Northeast Lakes District after averaging 8.1 points, 3.1 rebound, 1.1 assists and 1 steal per game.
“Bella started all 23 games for us last season as a freshman,” Anderson said. “She is capable of scoring quickly off the drive or with a jump shot. Bella uses her speed to her advantage on offense and defense.”
Bencko, the point guard, averaged 2.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.
“Carolyn started at point guard as a freshman for us last season,” Anderson said. “She has a steady handle, even keel, and is comfortable running the offense. She is very smart and makes good decisions under pressure.”
Junior forward Julia Crandall and senior forward/center Maddie Stapulionis also are expected to compete for a starting spot in the lineup.
Stapulionis averaged 4.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.
“Maddie is an incredible shot blocker. Her job this year will be to protect the paint. She uses her length well on the offensive end of the floor and we hope to see her increase her scoring and rebounding this season with the graduation of Kate Weston,” Anderson said. “Julia played JV the last two seasons. She has a great deal of potential at the varsity level. We hope to see her become our defensive stopper and a threat on the outside.”
Freshman Lily Karyo has been impressive in the preseason and she could earn a starting role at guard or forward.
“Lily has a solid work ethic and high basketball IQ,” Anderson said. “She is a very quick learner. We’ve seen tremendous growth in her game since we started summer workouts and she may start a few games for us this season. She is not afraid of playing physical and has a great ‘next play’ mentality.”
Anderson also expects senior forward Maddie Miralia (5.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.0 spg), junior guard Avery Houston and junior center Caylah McCamon (3.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.0 bpg) to make an impact this season.
“We have to play our style of basketball and dictate the tempo,” Anderson said. “We scout other teams and know our assignments, but ultimately, we have to play our game. We love defense and we will have to play aggressive defense in order to be successful in games. We have to set the tempo offensively so we can get the looks that we want.”