Mayfield enters the 2018-2019 season with three returning starters and five others with varsity experience. More importantly, the Wildcats are motivated by their earlier than expected postseason departure.
“I really like how this version of our team is shaping up,” Mayfield fourth-year head coach Ryan Looman said. “Coming off of last season, we all kind of felt that there was a bit of a letdown regarding our preseason hopes and expectations. The girls have worked really hard in the offseason and now in the early stages of this year to help correct that. We’ve got an eager group who has a strong drive on the court. Their willingness to play a selfless, team-centered brand of basketball should help carry us throughout the season.”
The Wildcats finished 9-14 overall and 7-7 in the Western Reserve Conference last winter.
Returning a pair of the league’s top players in Catherine Rock and Katelyn Kinczel provides the Wildcats with a solid core to build around and Looman is excited by the talent and athleticism on display at practice.
“This is the most athletic group that we’ve had, but we also mesh well together,” Looman said. “On the offensive side of things, we’re hoping to be able to play a more balanced type of game that doesn’t focus on one or two scorers. Defensively, we have to be better than we were a year ago, plain and simple. Needless to say, our emphasis has been in our mindset and knowing how important that end of the court is.”
While Looman is optimistic about the Wildcats and their competitive abilities, he’s also keenly aware of the relative youth of his squad.
“We’re young, really young,” he said. “With only three seniors we’ll have some players who have been waiting their turn stepping into new roles. So the big question will be what that maturation process looks like. Fortunately, these younger kids are basketball kids and they’re all about the program and their teammates. The hope is that the growth process is one that we see play out sooner rather than later.”
Kinczel, a senior forward, returns as the team’s leading scorer.
She averaged 12 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game in being named All-WRC.
“Katelyn is a three-year starter and one of the more versatile forwards in the area,” Looman said. “She was our leading scorer a season ago and she will be relied upon again this season to use her inside and outside games to set the tempo for us offensively. No reason why she shouldn’t average a double-double for us, but it’ll be her role as a team leader that will be even more important.”
Rock, a junior guard, returns to the starting lineup after averaging 7.5 ppg, 3.5 assists per game and 2.0 steals per game. She also earned all-league honors.
“Catherine is our motor and all around solid leader on the court from her point guard position,” Looman said. “She’s a great ball handler who embodies the selfless, team-centered approach. She has really taken strides thus far as a scorer and defender, both areas that we will rely more heavily on her for this season.”
Senior guard Juls Consolo also returns to the starting lineup after averaging 5.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg and 1.0 spg last winter.
“Juls is a versatile player for us and does a little bit of everything,” Looman said. “She is our best perimeter defender and will be asked to handle the ball and score more this season. As a returning starter and team captain, she has set a great example for our younger players to follow this year.”
Junior guard Julianna Nicolli and sophomore forward Payton O’Neal are expected to round out the starting lineup.
Nicolli averaged 2.0 ppg and 2.0 rpg while O’Neal scored 2.0 ppg.
“(Nicolli) is a quick and feisty player who is solid on the defensive end and is one of the better shooters in our program. She has a high basketball IQ and is a hard worker on the court. She gave us some minutes off the bench a year ago that has primed her for an expanded role this season,” Looman said. “Payton took some big steps forward after her freshman season. She put the work in during the offseason in the weight room and on the court to grow as a player. She provides good size for us on both ends of the court.”
Junior guard Lillie Edwards, sophomore forward Reagan Sovchen, senior guard Alyssa Prevesk, junior forward Mackenzie Michaud, sophomore guard Ashley Dearden and junior guard Leah Daher will be counted on to provide depth for the Wildcats this winter.
Edwards averaged one point and one rebound per game as a sophomore and Sovchen will see her first varsity action.
“Lillie will serve that versatile sixth man role and can come in the game to play multiple positions,” Looman said. “(Sovchen) is a newcomer to the varsity team who took the biggest leaps in our offseason program. She is a knockdown shooter who can play inside-out and has a great feel for the game.”
Prevesk and Michaud bring leadership and effort to the lineup.
“Alyssa is a great kid and solid leader for us who gets after it defensively,” Looman said. “(Michaud) is a good shooter and scrappy defender who has worked her way into our rotation.”
The Wildcats have the pieces in place to make a run at the WRC title. They’ll focus on playing one game at a time and playing consistently throughout the season.
“Playing together on both ends of the court will be our driving force this season,” Looman said. “How our new players acclimate to playing varsity basketball will determine how much success we have and most importantly when that success comes.”
The Wildcats open the season against Steubenville Catholic Central on Nov. 24 as part of the Ohio Varsity Tip-Off Classic at Ursuline College.
“Playing Steubenville Catholic Central in our opener has been something our players have been looking forward to since last season,” Looman said.