NUTLEY, NJ-- When the 2019-'20 season begins for the Nutley High girls basketball team, the Lady Raiders will be seeking to avoid the poor start that plagued last year's campaign.
A year ago, Nutley dropped its first five games en route to a 9-18 finish. Nutley had finished 16-9 in 2017-'18 and is just five years removed from its sectional championship season in 2015.
"We're a young team having graduated four of our five starters," began head coach Larry Mitschow. "We have just three seniors and one junior with the rest sophomores and freshmen. And we also play eight of our first nine games on the road so we have our work cut out for us."
One bright spot for the Lady Raiders is that the lone returning starter - Abby Scheidel - is back for her senior season. Scheidel, a 5-7 guard should reach the 1,000-point milestone this season before heading to Muhlenberg College next year.
"Abby is our leader on both sides of the court," said Mitschow. "Last season with four seniors she wasn't as vocal but this year she's going to take on more of a leadership role. She's one of the nicest kids around and a very consistent player averaging about 15 points per game last year."
The other seniors on the roster include 5-8 forward Sofia Lamond and 5-7 forward Jaden Long while 5-6 Lindsey Moraski is the lone junior.
Nutley's slew of sophomores include 5-4 guard Nicole Cicchetti, 5-7 center Stephanie Luberto, 5-2 guard Mackenzie Albert, 5-1 guard Rebecca Echavarria and 5-3 guard Alex Twomey with 5-4 guard Ava Minichini and 5-9 center Megan Riccardi filling out the roster as the team's freshmen.
"Size is one our weaknesses with our tallest player being just 5-9," said Mitschow. "But our strengths are that these are very hardw0rking, coachable kids. They have a great work ethic and have been competing very hard in practice for spots and playing time."
Nutley will be moving down a division and participating in the Liberty Division of the Super Essex Conference after going 3-11 in the ultra-competitive American Division last season.
Along with Nutley, the Liberty Division contains West Essex, Verona, Columbia, Glen Ridge, Newark Academy and Payne Tech.
The season will get underway on Thursday, Dec. 19 when the Lady Raiders play at Montclair Immaculate at 4 p.m.
Nutley will then remain on the road against Randolph (Saturday, Dec. 21 at 1 p.m.) and Villa Walsh (Monday, Dec. 23 at 11:30 a.m.).
"Last year was a little disappointing but hopefully moving down in divisions will help," said Mitschow. "We want to battle for the division, make the state tournament and finish over .500.
"Its going to be a challenging year but I think we'll be competitive."