BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Gov. Livingston girls basketball team has a new coach, new division, and a new chance to bounce back from last year's tough road.
Coach Vin Gulbin is excited to be reunited with the girls he once coached as the Columbia Middle School coach. Gulbin led the Columbia program for nine years before leaving due to pending sports program elimination. Gulbin coached Arthur L Johnson's JV girl's team and most recently was head coach of the Brearley girls varsity basketball program (16-7).
"This is a perfect situation for me," said Gulbin. "I feel like I came back home -- I feel very comfortable."
Gulbin brings a new positive approach to the team, replacing coach Andy Silvagni, who left the program mid-season last year. JV Coach Rob Ritter joins Gulbin on the bench bringing team experience and enthusiastic support for the girls. "Rob's experience -- he will be able to run things and take over parts of the practice and the defense," said Gulbin.
"I'm a different coach too -- change is good. I feel like I'm a more positive coach, reinforcing the girls with confidence," said Gulbin. "I will tell them what they're doing wrong, but hopefully, I can reinforce that positively. When you feel good about yourself, then you will perform well," said Gulbin.
Gulbin believes the program should be developed from the ground up and is dedicated to spending time working with the 6th through 8th grade travel and middle school programs.
"They struggled in the past in the freshman level," said Gulbin. Being a teacher at Columbia, Gulbin will promote the program and oversee at the middle school level.
"One of my focuses is to have a presence at the middle school -- that is what I am trying to do. I feel like the girls have to see it there [at the middle school]. They have to know that I am interested in their program. I can watch and help out -- that way, when they come up to the high school, they're comfortable with me and the program. They know they are supported."
With a new coach, comes a new program. "I am going to have a really good team this year," said Gulbin. The Lady Highlanders dropped a division, going from the Watchung to the Mountain Division. Gulbin anticipates his team leading the division and being competitive against the teams in the higher division.
His pre-season drills are pressure based with a lot of contact -- building the players' confidence under pressure so they're ready in the game situation.
Returning seniors Sara Dilly, Hayley Berliner and Courtney Osieja come back with a solid base, said Gulbin. These three captains bring something different to the team: Berliner is logistic behind the scenes; while Dilly and Osieja are vocal motivators.
Dilly is a leader both on and off the court, motivating and communicating with the team, said Gulbin. "You can't always have it come from the coach, it has to come from within."
"I see that Sara Dilly is a great ball handler," said Gulbin. "She gives an unbelievable effort, she is what you want in a program." He is looking for her to shoot more this season.
There are four up-and-coming players jockeying for the center and power forward positions: sophomore Lindsay Gerrato, junior Lindsay DiStaso, sophomore Lara Romano and Osieja.
Junior Amanda Bostwick, who was out an entire season due to injury, is back and healthy. "She surprises me everyday. She's very confident going in," said Gulbin looking for her to have a breakout year.
Junior Lauren Sorrano is expected to be a very strong returning presence for the team. "Lauren has improved dramatically," said Gulbin.
Gulbin's outlook is bright and has his sights set on winning the conference. "I think we will be very competitive. I hope to win the conference. We will play everyone in the Watchung [higher division] once -- getting the upper level competition. When we play our level, we will do very well in those games."
GL starts its season Dec. 20 against Arthur L. Johnson in Clark at 12 noon.