By Andrew Rudansky
Denis Case has been the head coach of the Lady Whalers’ varsity basketball team for the past six seasons, and for all six of those years the Lady Whalers have made the Class C playoffs. That’s quite a record for the combined Pierson/Bridgehampton team, one that Case has no intention of breaking this year.
That might be a tall order for the Lady Whalers, the least experienced team in League VIII this year with not a single senior on the roster. Pierson graduated five seniors from the varsity squad last year, including two of their top scorers from the past three years Sammy James and Sarah Barrett.
What varsity experience the Lady Whalers do have this year comes from junior shooting guard Emily Hinz, sophomore forward Bridget Canavan, and sophomore guard Katherine Matthers. These three probable starters for the Lady Whalers are the only players on the roster that played on the varsity squad last year.
Rounding out the ten-person roster are seven members from last year’s JV team. At the guard position the Lady Whalers have brought up Sydnee McKie-Senior, Maricarmen Chavez and Rachel Saidman. While Abby Ruiz, Julie Schiavoni, Holly Zappola and May Evjen are likely to play the forward at the varsity level.
“I don’t think we have any standouts,” said Case about the roster, “we have a group of kids that are all evenly talented. There is no one person who is going to score 30, 40 points a game, but we have a team that I feel really happy about.”
Currently Case has yet to pick a player to run the Lady Whalers offense at the point guard position, and is contemplating rotating players in the position until he finds a standout.
“It’s the type of team where they are all going to get playing time,” said Case. “The whole team will have a lot of on the job training,”
The Class C Southold Settlers and the Class D Shelter Island Indians, led by senior Kelsey McGayhey, will most likely be the teams to beat in League VIII going into this season. While perennial champions, the Stony Brook Bears might have fallen from contention with the graduation of most of their varsity stars last year.
“We are going right back to the basics,” said Case about the team’s strategy, one based on fast break lay-ups and straight-up, tough defense.
“We are going to live and die with man-to-man to begin with,” said Case.
To get into the Class C playoffs the Lady Whalers need to finish their season with at least a .500 record. Just last year the Lady Whaler’s went (9-3) in League VIII, one of those wins came at the expense of last year’s Class C Suffolk County Champions, Stony Brook. Whether the Whalers’ can match last season’s success, we won’t know until the playoffs roll around in February.
“It’s tough to tell how the team will do because it’s a totally brand new team,” said Case, who labeled the season as one of “rebuilding with expectations.”
The Lady Whalers first league game is at home against the Port Jefferson Lady Royals on Monday, December 12 at 6:15 p.m.