Girls basketball aims for New England tourney (Girls Varsity Basketball)

Roger Wistar

Buoyed off its resurgence from last season, the girls basketball team has their sights set on qualifying for the New England tournament this year.

“That’s the next step,” said head coach Doug Kneeland, who is in his second year at the helm. Kneeland acknowledged that the goal would require the team to finish more than a few games above 0.500, which would be another substantial improvement from last year’s 7-11 record.

Although the team did not quite achieve its goal last year of a winning record, it posted the best finish for the program in nearly a decade. Co-captain Danielle Jacobs ’13 said that the team has a new sense of focus and purpose under Kneeland.

“He brought intensity to every practice and game,” she said. “Mr. Kneeland laid down the foundation for us to grow even more coming into our new season.”

One of the biggest challenges facing the Bearcats this season will be replacing the five departed Seniors and bringing a young, new team together. This year’s team features only two Seniors, and half the girls on the team are Preps and Lower Mids.

“In some ways, it’s an advantage,” said Kneeland. “There is an energy to it. We like to get up and down the floor very quickly, and we have some young kids who want to get out and run.”

The team hopes to exploit its depth and overall speed on both ends of the court to create an up-tempo style of play. Early results seem to show success in this objective; the team has scored more than 50 points twice already, which equals its total from all of last season.

Many of the girls this year can play a variety of positions, particularly in the backcourt. Returners like Jacobs, Erika Hairston ’14, and Rachel Kirby ’14 will be joined by newcomers like Leah Settipane ’12 to give the Bearcats a great deal of flexibility.

Jacobs praised Settipane, who earned MVP honors in goal this fall for the field hockey team, for her play thus far. “She’s quick and aggressive on defense and puts points on the board on offense,” said Jacobs.

Down low, the team will lack somewhat for size, but will try to counter with toughness and intensity. Returner Claire Miles ’13 will be joined by Izzy Ziskind ’15 in the paint.

Despite there being almost twice as many new players as returners this year, Kneeland said he was especially pleased with how well the team has jelled so far.

“They seem to really like each other. Already there’s a great sense of camaraderie,” he said. “That will help us down the stretch.”

The work of Jacobs and co-captain Renee Palmer ’13, who were elected this year, has helped considerably to bring the team together. “They were acting like captains before we took a vote,” said Kneeland.

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