NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - One year after posting a 21-7 record and advancing all the way to the state semifinals, the New Providence Pioneer girls basketball team enters the season with hopes of advancing even further this campaign.
And who could fault them for having such high hopes?
Not only does head coach Cap Pazdera return his entire starting five but four of the five are seniors so this team certainly isn’t lacking in the experience category.
“We have a lot of experience back this year,” Pazdera, who’s in his 12th season at the helm said. “Because of our experience among the starting five, there’s not much we haven’t seen. These seniors have been with me their entire career and there’s not much we haven’t seen. We’ve been through it all as a group which I think gives us an edge on a lot of teams.”
Those seniors Pazdera is referencing are starting guards Katie Kinum and Sarah Zeto and starting forwards Hannah Caminiti and Brielle Carleen. The quartet will be joined in the starting lineup once again by sophomore guard Olivia Faucher.
The five led the Pioneers to within one game of the state finals and each have improved their game in such a way that Pazdera believes his team has a good shot at winning a state championship.
“In addition to the our experience, our quickness and ball handling will be our strengths this season,” Pazdera, who owns 224-77 record as New Providence’s head coach, said. “We’re especially going to use our speed as our strength.”
Another weapon (and a very good one at that) that Pazdera has at his disposal is Kinum. One of the top guards in the state, Kinum will continue her career at Penn next season. Kinum would love nothing more than to end her fantastic high school career with a championship.
“Katie’s a special player,” Pazdera said. “There’s so many things she can do with the ball in her hands. She does a good job of not only creating for herself but for her teammates as well. But most importantly, Katie plays with a lot of passion and that rubs off on her teammates.”
Like Kinum, Zeto also plays with a lot of passion. Pazdera said Zeto is one of the team’s best athletes.“Sarah’s our smallest player and she’s our second leading rebounder,” Pazdera said. “That shows how much heart she has and how competitive she is.”
Kinum and Zeto have a nice complement in the backcourt in Faucher, who Pazdera said never runs out of energy.
“Olivia is the engine that doesn’t stop,” Pazdera said. “She just runs and runs and runs in addition to the great outside shot that she has.”
In the frontcourt, Caminiti and Carleen are the team’s enforcers. “Hannah has been a tremendous leader for our team,” Pazdera said. “She not only has a nice outside shot, but a tremendous knowledge of the game as well.”
“Brielle is our defensive stopper and she also knows the game very well..”
The Pioneers will once again compete in the always-tough Union County Conference-Watching Division. Despite the likely edge in experience on most teams in the conference, Pazdera knows each game will be a battle.
“There will be no games off this season in our conference,” Pazdera said. “We play some very tough teams such as Roselle Catholic, Patrick School, Union, and Westfield and we’ll have to face a lot of those teams twice.”
And on top of that, there’s the always even tougher Central Jersey Section 2 where the Pioneers face powerhouses like Rumson, who ended the Pioneers title dreams last season, and Manasquan.
What separates the Pioneers from most teams is that they embrace the challenge.
What else would you expect from a veteran squad?
“This is going to be a fun season and we’re really looking forward to it,” Pazdera said.