NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The combination of pretty much all key players returning from last season’s team and a move to the lower division of the Union County Conference has the New Providence Pioneers girls basketball team thinking big when it comes to expectations this season.

The Pioneers garnered just six wins last season but gained valuable experience playing against some of the County’s best teams and were close to pulling out victories in several of those matchups.

“The strength of our team is our experience and the number of girls we have that can contribute to the team,” head coach Cap Pazdera, who is entering his 14th season at the helm, said. “We lost a few close games last season but hopefully that experience helps us in close games this season.”

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The argument can be made that the 2018-2019 squad will be amongst the deepest during Pazdera’s time as head coach.

Among the key returnees are seniors Alyssa Nook, Cassandra Barth, and Olivia Faucher. Juniors Alexa Boyle, Kaitlyn Cumiskey, Julianna DeGeorge, and Sadie Miller are also returnees that are expected to make major contributions this season.

The depth of the Pioneers’ lineup will allow Pazdera and his staff to implement a pressuring style of defense to go along with a balanced and efficient offense that put up more than 40 points on several occasions last season.

“Defensively, we’re going to try to take advantage of the fact that many of our girls can play pressuring defense which in turn will make other teams work hard for their baskets,” Pazdera, who has compiled 253 wins at the school, said. “Basically the entire team is back and the expectation is that all of our returnees, including the non-starters, will contribute one way or another.”

“Hopefully, all of that experience will turn what were close losses last season into close wins this season.”

The Pioneers were moved from the County’s upper division to its lower division during the offseason.  The move to the lower division means the Pioneers will not get the chance to contend with powerhouses such as the Patrick School as regularly as they did in past seasons.

While the quality of those matchups will not occur as regularly, Pazdera believes playing the County powerhouses such as the Patrick School will go a long way towards this season’s success.

“We got much-needed experience playing in the County’s Upper Division against teams such as the Patrick School, Westfield, and Cranford,” Pazdera said. “If we can compete with those girls and get through the adversity presented to us in those games, then we certainly expect the girls to compete in the Lower Division.”

The move from Group 2 to Group 1 during the offseason also works in the Pioneers’ favor as they will now have the opportunity to compete against schools that are similar in size during the expected state tournament run.

Regardless of the opponent, Pazdera is anxious to play meaningful basketball and for him and his girls to make amends for a tough 2017-2018 season.

“I’m really excited for this season and can’t wait to get this season started,” Pazdera said. “We have a great bunch of kids and can’t wait to see what they can do.”