RANDOLPH, NJ- The Randolph girls basketball team struggled with injuries and a lack of senior experience in the 2015-16 season, leading to a disappointing campaign most of the players would like to forget. This season, the team faces a head coaching change and the loss of their summer league leading scorer, which might make it appear things are headed down the same path again.
However, there are many positives that signal a turn in the right direction could be in order for the 2016-17 season.
“We are trying to change the attitude of many players,” said new head coach Pete Torres. “Our Slogan for this year is ‘New year, new attitude’. We will need everyone to buy in, and at the current time it seems to be working.”
One way Torres is attempting to change attitudes is by giving leadership roles to players he feels can rub positive vibes off on others. One of those is point guard and senior captain Courtney Whiting.
“Following last year's disappointing outcome, the team as a whole was feeling discouraged and unsure of what to expect coming into this season,” said Whiting. “I felt that as a captain it was my responsibility to ensure that this year of reformation had a positive result to put Randolph Girl's Basketball back on the map. My most important role as captain is to bring constant encouragement and enthusiasm to every practice and game, to remind everyone on the team of what can be achieved if we trust each other and believe in our capabilities.”
Another positive is the fact that although Torres is the new head coach, he is no stranger to the team. Torres steps in to replace his wife Kristin, whom he has assisted for the past eight years. He knows the players abilities, and they know what to expect from his coaching style.
“Coach Torres has always been a major component of the team since I was a freshman, so the change has not been drastic,” said four year varsity starter and team captain Jennie LaMancuso. “Plus, we have a solid amount of players coming back from last year who have experience on the varsity level, and everyone has improved on their skills and shooting.”
Torres will not have a shortage of senior leadership this season as the team did last year with only two contributors, and one ( leading scorer Kiera Cesaro ) missed half the season with an injury. In addition to Whiting and LaMancuso, senior Alana Miniovich will be the teams’ third captain, and has spent a couple years playing at the varsity level as well.
“Alana is a tremendous athlete who, when she puts it all together, is tough to stop,” said Torres. “The only person who can stop Alana...is Alana. She was chosen captain due to her overall devotion to the program. Once the ball is thrown up, Alana competes as hard as anyone.”
Senior Hannah Murphy saw playing time in most of the varsity games last season, and Torres has a collection of four sophomores, Julia Wiersum, Juliette LaMancuso, Samira Santana, and Kristine Lynch who all have experience appearing in a number of varsity games as well. The abundance of youth that was a detriment last season, should in turn pay dividends this season.
“The Teams strength right now seems to be our defense, where athleticism and Length could cause problems for our opponents,” said Torres. “We need this strength to make up for our weakness last year which was scoring. We are hoping our defense and a new offense leads to more points.”
The teams two most versatile scorers from last season are gone, so others will need to step up and put numbers on the board.
“We don't have one key player that we are looking to as a scorer, instead, we have an offense that gives everyone an equal opportunity to be able to score,” said LaMancuso. “The combination we have of experience and equal talent, we expect that to result in a collective contribution from everyone on the court.”
Every successful team needs a player to run their offense, and for the Lady Rams, that job will fall into Whiting’s lap this season.
“Courtney was chosen captain for her overall leadership skills she showed in the off season,” said Torres. “She will be our floor leader and our primary ball handler. We will need her to set up her teammates and to score also.”
One of those expected to score will be LaMancuso, who is a dual threat with a strong outside shot ( led the team in 3-pointers with 32 ) and the height to produce in the paint as well.
“Jennie brings good defense with her length, and a good outside shot,” said Torres. “Jennie is more important to this team than I think she realizes, and we need her to have a good offensive year if we are to be successful.”
Torres and Whiting seem confident that this group is in good position to get back to their winning ways. Last years’ 7-17 finish was the first season under .500 for the girls’ team in over 8 years.
“With the season opener approaching, the team is anxious to display all of the hard work we have put in,” said Whiting. “Everyone is focused and determined to make this season a good one.”
Torres is expecting his squad to turn things around and catch some opponents off guard..
“There is potential due to the Chemistry seeming to be better than in the past few years,” said Torres. “If this team works together and continues to work hard, there is potential to surprise some people.”
The Lady Rams open their season on Friday Dec. 16, home against Sparta.