After winning back-to-back district titles, the Perry Pirates are hungry for more this winter.
The Pirates return four starters and six other letter-winners from last year’s squad that finished 20-6 overall and won the Chagrin Valley Conference Lake Division with a 12-1 mark.
“We are two-time defending district champions and have won our conference five years in a row,” said Perry coach Roy Infalvi, who is in his third year with the program. “We want to defend those titles and our goal is to advance to the next level.”
Reaching the next level won’t be easy in a very challenging Division II district and regional tournament but the Pirates have the talent and experience to achieve their goals.
“I am very excited for the upcoming season,” Infalvi said. “We have a lot of experience returning this season and a lot of our players have made great improvements during the offseason. We plan to use this to our advantage.”
What the Pirates lack is size to match up with some of the bigger teams in the state but Infalvi is confident his team can overcome that shortcoming with effort and grit.
“We are not very tall overall as a team,” he said. “I feel that we have to be physical and we have to be able to rebound consistently as a team for us to be successful. That means being in the proper position to rebound and everyone doing their job together.”
The Pirates shouldn’t have any trouble scoring this season.
Among the returning starters are senior guards Madyson Hacking and Elle Infalvi, who have started every game in their Perry careers except for a senior night contest during their freshman season.
Hacking and Infalvi both are on the verge of reaching the 1,000-point milestone as Hacking has 924 career points scored while Infalvi sits at 840 heading into the season.
As a junior, Hacking averaged 13.7 points, six rebounds and five assists on the way to earning first-team All-CVC and All-Northeast Ohio honors. She also was named honorable mention All-Ohio.
“Madyson returns for her fourth season as a starter and second season as a captain,” Infalvi said. “We look for Madyson to be a scorer for us but we also look for her to set other teammates up in good positions for them to score and help our team. She plays great defense and is often asked to guard one of the other team’s best scorers.”
Elle Infalvi averaged a team-best 13.8 points per game last season while also pulling down three rebounds and dishing out three assists per contest. She was named first-team All-CVC and third-team All-District.
“Elle returns as a four-year starter and her second year as a captain for us,” Coach Infalvi said. “Elle is one of the best shooters in our program and one of the best 3-point shooters in the area. Elle has developed other parts of her game and we are looking for big things this season. Defensively, she has good instincts and gets in the right position to make plays.”
Also competing for a spot in the starting lineup are juniors Gigi Vicini, JaC’ana Anderson, Margaux Jean, and Marcela Rodriguez.
Vicini, a three-year starter at forward, averaged three points and eight rebounds per game last season. She was named honorable mention All-CVC.
“Gigi worked very hard in the offseason to develop her offensive game and it has shown early in the preseason,” Infalvi said. “She continues to be one of the most versatile and athletic defenders in the area. She has the ability to defend a guard or a post.”
Anderson, a forward, averaged 5.5 points and six rebounds per game last season off the bench. She earned second-team all-conference honors.
“Jacy really emerged last season in the second half of the year as a strong inside force for us,” Infalvi said. “She continually defended and played really well. She has gotten stronger and developed her skills this offseason. We are looking forward to her having some dominant performances this year.”
Jean, a guard, earned a varsity letter last season after averaging three points and one assist per game.
“Margaux had some big games down the stretch for us last season,” Infalvi said. “She has turned into a very good defender for us. She made great strides this summer and has emerged to be a very good point guard. She has competed well and has shown that fight day in and day out in practice.”
Rodriguez, a guard, also earned a varsity letter last winner. She averaged four points and three rebounds per contest.
“Marcela has had a great preseason,” Infalvi said. “She has developed into a very versatile guard who can score and distribute. We are looking forward to a breakout year from her this season.”
Providing depth for the Pirates are seniors Sydney Moon, Maddy Lambdin and Maggie Lynch, juniors Maddie Stevenson and Rylee Hodge, and sophomores Izzy McKoon, Sophie Makaud and Grace McKoon.
Moon missed the last half of her junior season with a knee injury. Her return bolsters the guard position and provides an inspirational lift to her teammates.
“Sydney is one of our top defenders,” Infalvi said. “She missed the last 10 games last season because she tore her ACL. She is now cleared and working her way back into basketball shape. She works extremely hard and we are looking forward to her helping us as we move forward.”
Lambdin is a center and Lynch is a forward.
“Maddy is in her first year at the varsity level. She has worked hard this preseason and has made good improvements. She is tall and long and has started to become more aggressive with the defense and rebounding,” Infalvi said. “Maggie is a very hard worker and has improved her game from last season. This will be her first full-time varsity season and she has been competing hard daily in practice.”
Stevenson and Hodge both will provide depth at the guard position.
“Maddie has been working hard daily in practice. She really started to play well at the end of last season on our JV team. She comes in this year competing for minutes at the point guard position with Margaux and Grace. I am happy with her work ethic and her continued improvement day in and day out,” Infalvi said. “Rylee is new to our district and team this season. She is learning and working hard each day. She has good instincts and should continue to get better as the season moves on and she gets more experience in our system.”
Izzy McKoon averaged four points and three rebounds from her forward position last season.
“Izzy stepped up huge for us last season as a freshman,” Infalvi said. “She was a spark we needed in some early season games and then emerged to be a regular rotation player as the season went on. She is more comfortable in our system this year and should be a main part of our rotation.”
Makad is a forward and Grace McKoon is a guard.
“We are very excited about Sophia this season. She is extremely athletic, quick, and long. She has had a great pre-season and is improving daily. She has been developing her inside game and continues to work hard daily in practice,” Infalvi said. “Grace is a very dedicated hard-working player. She strives to get better and has been competing hard in practice. She was a very good player on our JV team last season and is competing for time this year at the point guard position on varsity. Grace has very good upside and continues to learn and improve.”
Perry has won five straight sectional championships and two consecutive district titles.
The Pirates have a plan in place to take the next step.
“In order for us to be successful this year we need our players to take their game to the next level,” Infalvi said. “We need to continue to get better day in and day out and not be complacent. We need to work to make each other better by competing daily in practice and games. We want our practices to be intense and tougher than games.”
Perry opens the season at home on Friday against CVCA.