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Kirtland enters the 2020-2021 season looking to defend its Chagrin Valley Conference title and riding a wave of momentum coming off of the state championship the girls’ soccer team won earlier this month.

With five of the seven varsity players contributing to that state title, the Hornets won’t have any trouble competing this winter but they might encounter a slow start as the team hasn’t had much time to prepare.

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“Nov. 16 was the first time we practiced with the bulk of our varsity players,” second-year head coach Brittany Zele said. “Before that, we only had two varsity players and the rest were freshmen or sophomores that are on the JV team. Based on our first practice together, the girls have not missed a beat. They remembered plays, worked hard, and played well with each other. They are heading into a scrimmage tonight with only one day of practice under their belt and my confidence in them has not wavered.”

Zele guided the Hornets to a 19-5 record and a Valley Division title in her first season at the school.

Her second year will provide many challenges, especially considering there are just seven girls on the varsity squad.

Add in the fact the Hornets graduated their top two scorers and those challenges are magnified.

“We will struggle to score consistently at first,” Zele said. “We are also low on varsity numbers but plan on bringing up a couple girls from JV each game that are ready to get some varsity experience. Our plan is to run the ball as much as we can and get high percentage shots from our offenses.”

That plan is sound based on having five varsity soccer players on the roster.

Those girls won the state title with hard work and determination and Zele expects the same out of them on the basketball court.

“We have high endurance, we are quick and aggressive,” she said. “We will rely on our defense to speed the game up and force turnovers.”

Seniors Leah LaVerde and Haley Coso and juniors Reilly Greenlee and Macy McIntosh return to the starting lineup.

LaVerde, a 5-foot-4 guard who split starting duties with Greenlee, and Coso, a 5-foot-8 forward/center, will be counted on to provide senior leadership on the court.

LaVerde averaged 4.1 points per game with three rebounds, 1.2 assists and 2.3 steals per contest. She also shot 76-percent from the free-throw line. Coso scored 6.4 points per game with 6.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.5 steals per contest. She shot 44-percent from the floor and 65-percent from the line.

“Leah has every leadership quality a captain should have. We are going to rely on her heavily for her aggressive defense and being a lockdown defender,” Zele said. “Haley has developed into a fierce basketball player. She has perfected her inside game and has extended her shooting range. Haley’s knowledge of the game and ability to help her teammates around her is an asset to the program.”

Greenlee, a 5-foot-6 point guard, and McIntosh, a 5-foot-5 guard/center/post, were utility players for the soccer team and will play integral roles for the basketball team.

As a sophomore, Greenlee scored seven points per game with 2.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.9 steals per contest on the way to earning second-team All-CVC and honorable mention All-District honors while McIntosh averaged seven points with 8.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 2.1 steals per contest. McIntosh was named honorable mention All-District.

“Reilly understands the game of basketball and is able to direct girls on the floor. She is able to create opportunities to score and get her teammates open looks. Reilly can play any position and succeed. Her versatility is one of her strongest qualities,” Zele said. “Macy is one of the strongest girls on our team. Her strength and ability to get to the hoop is why she is our leading offensive and defensive rebounder. Any team that has to defend her can anticipate a battle at the rim.”

Junior Amalie Gettig and sophomores Marissa Carmosino and Corinne Greenlee round out the varsity roster.

Gettig, a 5-foot-5 guard, was 7-of-18 from behind the arc last season. Carmosino, a 5-foot-8 guard/post, will provide the Hornets with more size under the hoop and Greenlee, a 5-foot-5 guard, will bolster the defense.

“Amalie will be our go-to outside shooter this year. She has great range and has a high basketball IQ. Teams will need to make sure they know where she is at all times. Marissa is a great addition to the team this year. She has improved tremendously from the start of her freshman year. She does a great job getting to the hoop and finishing around the rim. Marissa will always battle for loose balls and do the little things to help her team. Corinne will be one of our go-to defenders in games. She has quick feet and is able to read the floor and get steals. She will be a great addition at the point guard position.”

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The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. 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.