WESTFIELD, NJ – A new season begins for the Westfield High School girls basketball team when it hosts Elizabeth Thursday at 4 p.m.
The Lady Blue Devils are coming off an extremely successful 2018-19 campaign, finishing with an 18-9 record, a trip to the Union County Tournament final and a semifinal appearance in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 tournament.
Westfield will compete in the Union County Conference and the Watchung Division, going up against Cranford, Oak Knoll and Roselle Catholic.
Led by last year’s All-Watchung Division selectee and senior Ali Lisanti, Westfield has the talent and experience to make another run in the 2019-20 season.
“We set high expectations for ourselves every year,” said Westfield head coach Liz McKeon. “Our goal is to get better every game.”
Westfield has built itself into a consistent threat with a number of 20-win seasons in recent years. The Lady Blue Devils have the pieces to do it again.
Lisanti was one of the team’s premier scorers from the perimeter a season ago. Her shooting ability should translate into a prolific senior campaign.
Along with Lisanti, senior guards Caroline Dwyer and Faith Dobosiewicz, junior guards Charlotte Dursee and Emma Pietrewicz, sophomore center Grace Klag and sophomore guard Chloe Kruesser are all returning players expected to make an impact this season.
Newcomers are senior guard Amanda Paden, junior guards Kait Alliegro and J.J. Milstein, freshman forward/guard Paige Gorczyca and freshman guard Annie Ryan.
“I think everyone can make an impact,” McKeon said. “The best thing about this group of girls is that they are unselfish and play as a team. Any single one of them can step up on any given day.”
McKeon made note of Lisanti taking that next step this season with more eyes focused around her.
“I expect Ali to pick up where she left off and then some,” the coach said. “I told her she has a target on her back this year, so she’s going to have to work even harder. Everyone knows who Ali is now and what she’s capable of. She’s a leader, and she doesn’t shy away from working to become better. Ali has a bright future ahead of her.”
For Westfield, there is certainly some unfinished business this season.
“We have made the Union County Tournament final three out of the last five years,” McKeon said. “We are hungry and ready to advance. The county is very tough so it’s going to take a lot of hard work and a full team effort to get to where we want to be.”
The North 2, Group 4 section is certainly a gauntlet as well.
“We are looking to take that next step and advance to the sectional final,” McKeon said.
The Westfield coach has put an emphasis on defense, boxing out and communication in the early stages of the season in practices and scrimmages.
“Those three things are about heart, toughness and wanting to succeed,” McKeon added. “Doesn’t matter if your shots are falling; you can always play defense, box-out, communicate and hustle for every ball.”
Westfield jumps into its difficult schedule right away. The Lady Blue Devils open the season with Elizabeth before a quick turnaround on Saturday against Montgomery, also at home.
The group will play in the Len Sepanak Memorial Tournament at Ridge High School.
“There is always very tough competition there,” McKeon noted. “We need to be ready to battle every single game.”
Saturday, Dec. 21 will mark “WBA (Westfield Basketball Association) Day” at Westfield High School. Five teams will be playing at home, with the girls and boys varsity squads playing back-to-back. The girls freshman team opens at 9:30 a.m. against Montgomery, the girls junior varsity team plays Montgomery at 11 a.m., the girls varsity meets Montgomery at 12:30 p.m., the boys varsity plays Pope John at 2:30 p.m. and the freshman boys conclude the day against Pope John at 4 p.m.