By Andrew Rudansky
After last year’s disappointing (3-11) season, the new Ross girls varsity head coach Howard Brown is hoping to turn things around and take the Lady Cosmos past their Class D rivals.
Brown, formerly a men’s coach at the collegiate level, is confident that the stars have finally aligned for the Cosmos; believing that a combination of returning seniors, new international talent and a wide open Class D field will finally spell success for Ross.
The Lady Cosmos will be returning three seniors to the varsity squad this year, Autumn Williams, Emma Betuel and Ajiah Jones-King. Brown said that this senior talent is especially potent because each of these probable starters specializes in a different aspect of the game.
Williams, in her fourth year playing Ross basketball, will likely start at the power forward position for the Cosmos.
“[Williams] has a good command of the fundamentals, and she is really tough,” said Brown.
Jones-King, also playing the forward position, is a “strong, defensive minded player who is great on fast breaks,” according to Brown.
Brown said that Betuel is the logical choice to start at the point guard position because of her ability to shoot the ball, and what he describes as a “boundless source” of energy.
Joining these seniors as leading candidates for the five starting positions will be junior Isabelle Milligan, a guard with lights-out perimeter shooting, and sophomore Julia Perez, a boarding student from Spain.
“What is great is that I think that I will be able to field ten girls at any one time and not have a serious drop off [in production],” said Brown. He said his confidence comes from what he considers an extremely deep bench, one that includes guard Gabby Ment, forward Stephanie Oppenheim and New Zealand boarding student Jess Olorenshaw.
Brown noted that coaching Ross comes with its own set of unique challenges in League VIII.
Like the other Class D teams, Smithtown Christian and Shelter Island, Ross has a very small student population to draw from for sports teams. Unlike either of these schools, or any of the schools in the league, close to half of the student population at Ross is boarding students, students who frequently return home for holidays.
“The thing that hurts us on a consistent basis is the boarding students,” said Brown about losing half of his team during holidays. Brown isn’t saying that this constitutes an excuse, and he still believes that the Lady Cosmos can be a strong contender.
Where Ross has an advantage over their Class D competition is that Smithtown Christian and Shelter Island both graduated many of their varsity stars last years, while Ross’ talent is just now coming to fruition.
“A reasonable goal for us is to make the playoffs,” said Brown. “It’s not just a possibility, it’s a probability.”
The validity of this assertion will first be tested in a matchup with McGann-Mercy in a non-league tournament on Friday, December 9 at 7 p.m., while the first step to the post-season has the Cosmos traveling to Shelter Island in their first league game on January 6.