NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - One year after advancing to the Central Jersey Group 2 semifinal round, the New Providence girls basketball team is set to hit the hardwood. Last season, the Pioneers rode a talented senior class to a 23-6 record and one of the best seasons in head coach Cap Pazdera’s tenure at the school.

Pazdera will be charged with finding a way to replace last year’s senior quartet of Katie Kinum, Sarah Zeto, Hannah Caminiti, and Brielle Carleen.

And throw in the fact that the Pioneers play in perhaps the toughest division of the Union County Conference, Pazdera and his young squad have their work cut out for them.

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“We are young and inexperienced and are trying to replace four starters who left due to graduation,” Pazdera, who is entering his 13th season at the helm, said. “With that graduation loss, we lost 98% of our scoring and rebounding, so we are looking for girls who will step up to take on the roles of being a scorer, rebounder, and defender.”

“Any time you lose players of the caliber of Katie, Sarah, Hannah Caminiti and Brielle Carleen who have been with you for the last 3 to 4 years, won a championship with, of course things will be different.” 

Not surprisingly, Pazdera admitted inexperience but believes he has the players that can handle the process of replacing the four departed starters including Kinum, who was the Union County Conference Player of the Year last season.

“We are indeed very young and inexperienced,” Pazdera said. “It’s going to be fun figuring out how we work as a team while playing in the toughest division of the Union County Conference as well as competing in the Group 2 Central Jersey section of the states.”

Among the key returnees for the Pioneers are senior forwards Elizabeth Parker and Iris Kaloshi and junior guards Olivia Faucher and Alyssa Nook.

“We are looking for some solid play and leadership out of our returning seniors and juniors like Elizabeth, Iris, and Olivia,” Pazdera said. “We know they have the leadership to show the younger players what this program is all about.”

Parker, Kaloshi, and Faucher are now the leaders of the team and will be tasked with replacing last year's stars and bringing along newcomers such as sophomore guards Kaitlyn Cumiskey and Alexa Boyle.

“Kaitlyn Cumiskey, Alyssa Nook, Alexa Boyle, and Cassie Barth got some varsity quarters last year, but we are really looking for them to step up into those vacant spots and make solid contributions to the team this season,” Pazdera said.

“As I said before, we are inexperienced,” Pazdera said. “But the girls are going to have to figure out quickly what their role is in helping this team win. It’s going to be exciting to see who steps up and is willing to compete against some of the best teams in the state.”

It’s not hard to notice that Pazdera is excited about the challenge awaiting his team this season. Pazdera and his team are embracing the challenge.

Perhaps what Pazdera witnessed during the offseason is a reason for his optimism.

“We had a great summer playing as much as we could together,” Pazdera said. “And so far the preseason has been filled with a lot of teaching and hard work by all of the girls in the program.”

That teaching and hard work will need to carry over into the regular season and by all accounts, Pazdera believes his team is up to the task.

“We are looking forward to another season of working with a tremendous group of young women, who approach every day by trying to do their best both on and off of the court,” Pazdera said. “We are just asking our girls to work as hard as they can. Through that process, good things will come from it.”

The Lady Pioneers open at home against Arthur L. Johnson on Saturday, Dec. 16 with a 1 p.m. tip off.