With three returning starters and four others with varsity experience, Chagrin Falls has set lofty goals for the 2018-2019 season.
Ninth-year head coach Brittany Anderson and the Tigers hope to start with a Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division championship and another run to the district tournament.
“We have a wealth of potential this season,” Anderson said. “I am very excited about this team. The pieces and parts are there to be successful. We just have to work to put it all together.”
Anderson, who is 121-69 in her career, plans to maximize the talent and speed on her roster to improve upon last year’s 12-13 overall record and 8-6 mark in league play.
“We could be a very fast, high-pressure team this season,” she said. “Our focus is always on playing great defense. We have more experience this season and will be able to play with more intensity. We also have more balanced scoring this season, so teams will have to be creative matching up against us.”
The Tigers will encounter many challenges including finding a way to compete under the glass.
“Everyone will have to work to rebound this season, as we don’t have many posts in our program,” Anderson said. “There are also a lot of changes in our conference this season–not just players that have graduated, but transfers, new coaching staffs–we have to be on our toes and prepared for anything. If we can play our game, we’ll be able to handle whatever comes our way.”
Returning starters include juniors Carolyn Bencko and Bella Dalessandro and sophomore Lily Karyo.
Bencko averaged 10 points, 4.4 rebounds and one steal per game from her guard position. She was named second team All-CVC and honorable mention All-Northeast Lakes Region last winter.
“Carolyn has embraced her role as point guard and now, in her third season on varsity, is emerging into the vocal leader that we need,” Anderson said. “She has shown that she is capable of scoring, now she has stepped up her passing and does a good job of finding the open player on the floor.”
Dalessandro, also a guard, averaged 9.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg and 1.5 spg in earning honorable mention all-conference and Northeast Lakes District honors.
“Bella is so fast and uses her speed to get her opportunities offensively,” Anderson said. “We hope to open up the floor for her better this season because she has a quick first step. Bella will be our catalyst on defense with her intensity out front.”
Karyo, a guard/forward combo, dropped in 4.6 ppg and pulled down 3.7 rpg last season.
“Lily grew tremendously as a freshman on varsity last season,” Anderson said. “She was forced to learn on the fly and gained a lot of valuable experience. She has a high basketball IQ and works to put herself in positions to contribute offensively and to help defensively. She will be called upon this season to increase her scoring and rebounding production.”
Rounding out the projected starting lineup is sophomore forward Julia Santamaria and junior forward Katie Kwasny.
“Julia has been a wonderful addition to the program thus far. She moved here from Washington this past spring and has added great energy to the team. Julia hustles and rebounds so well and finishes around taller defenders. You can tell she truly enjoys the game and that spreads throughout the team,” Anderson said. “Katie got added to the mix last season as a swing player but earned regular minutes as the year went on. She has great length and uses it well to run the floor and finish inside. Katie has the potential to be a major contributor on both ends of the floor.”
Seniors Avery Houston and Lydia Thombs, juniors Molly Barr, Lexie Christie, Belle DeFranco and Kaitlin Burgess also will be counted on to provide quality minutes as the Tigers maneuver through a challenging schedule.
“Avery plays with such fire and intensity. She is aggressive on defense and has a strong drive to the hoop. She’ll be a major contributor as a starter or as our sixth man,” Anderson said. “Lydia is a great team leader with a lot of heart and a great work ethic. She has put in a lot of time in the offseason to work on her game and she has become more of a vocal leader on both ends of the floor. Molly moved up for postseason last year and impressed us at point guard. She’ll get quality minutes this season running our offense and as a hard-nosed defender.”
Anderson is confident the Tigers have the tools they need to achieve their goals. It starts with playing consistently each time they take the court.
“Everyone needs to do their part to contribute to team wins,” Anderson said. “We need balanced scoring and good communication on defense. If we talk, if we all help out, we can carry out our game plan.”