The Amsterdam girls’ basketball team has a new look, but the same goal.
“Going into it, our goal is to win the Big 10 again,” Lady Rams coach Eric Duemler said. “There’s no question. We want that title. The girls have a lot to live up to, and it seems like they’re working hard toward that.”
They’ve been working and preparing without two of the finest performers in the history of Amsterdam basketball in Brittany Stahura and Megan Gaugler, both two-time Daily Gazette first-team all-stars, and four other seniors. That cast helped the Lady Rams go 12-0 in league play in each of the last two seasons, while forging a 43-3 overall record.
“It took quite a while for the girls to figure out that we don’t have Brittany in the post anymore to grab those rebounds, and we don’t have Megan shooting outside jumpers for us,” Duemler said. “I kept telling them, ‘It’s your turn now. You have to do it.’ It’s finally sunk in that this is their team.”
Amsterdam will try to defend its crown with six returning players, led by the junior trio of Michela Ottati, Allie Zabo and 6-foot Hillary Rouse, who each saw significant action during last season’s run to the Section II Class AA semifinals. Seniors Casey Dwyer and 6-2
Rachael Seymour are also back, with 11th-graders Skippy Repeppi and Kaitlynn Smith among the newcomers up from the school’s Big 10-champion junior varsity team.
“Losing so many talented kids, it’s definitely a transition period, but I’m excited about it,” said Duemler, whose Lady Rams won 22 straight games last season and 21 in a row the season before that. “We’ve got great chemistry and great kids, and there’s a lot of potential there to do some real good things.”
One thing Amsterdam will continue to do is apply defensive pressure in various forms.
“We want to keep the pressure up. Defense is going to be a strength again. I can tell because of what we’ve done in our scrimmages against some of the Suburban Council teams,” Duemler said. “We’ve got girls who will get after it.”
Duemler is hoping that stiff defense leads to turnovers, transition and points. The Lady Rams do not have a double-digit scorer returning, with Big 10 most valuable player Stahura (Bryant College), Gaugler (Skidmore) and graduated Ashley Welytok (Oneonta) handling the offensive load last season.
“We need to get points from somewhere, and we’re hoping to get it from our defense. We want to turn it over and run,” said Duemler, whose team takes on Nottingham tonight as part of the Our Lady of Mercy Tournament in Rochester. “If our defense lets us down and we get into a shootout, we may struggle.”
“Amsterdam has undergone some change, as far as personnel, but they’ll come at you with that defense,” said Albany coach Leslie Bogucki. “You have to expect that and be ready for that.”
Tight race expected
Duemler expects a tight race for the league championship which Catholic Central won three years in a row before Amsterdam’s back-to-back triumphs. Catholic Central also secured titles in 2001 and 2002, with Bishop Maginn the best in 2003.
“It should be a battle all the way through,” Duemler said. “It’s going to come down to the little things like free throws, defense and how a team handles special situations.”
Bogucki has a trio of returning senior starters in Shenekwa Stewart, Alexis Hauser and Chana Simms who have been in all sorts of on-court situations, and have quite often succeeded.
“When you have that many starters back, you have confidence and experience to help the other players along,” Bogucki said. “They’ve been there and done that. They got to the [sectional] semifinals last year. They know what it takes to get there.”
Albany returns six letter winners and several promising newcomers led by Katie Michaelis, Kelsey Green, Shikera Lawson and 5-11 seventh-grader Breahanda Stratton.
“We’ve got size and some good shooting guards from the JV, so our outside game should be a little stronger,” Bogucki said. “We just have to put it all together.”
Bishop Maginn had it all going to start last season, winning 10 straight before a 4-8 finish capped by a one-point sectional loss to Albany. The Golden Griffins graduated only one senior, and have 6-foot Virginia Commonwealth-bound Mariah Stewart and a fine guard trio of Stephanie Herold, Alexis Osbourse and Janae Lyde back to play for first-year coach Julie Riley.
Schenectady also has a large, experienced cast coming back led by Sheila Dixon, Samara Butler,
Antonia Williams, Amanda Colafemina and Amanda McLean. Dixon was the only junior to make the Big 10 all-star first team last season, while Butler, her backcourt mate, earned second team status.
Catholic Central also has a Big 10 second-teammer back in New Haven-bound Olivia DeMarco, along with Colleen Dignum, Dana Spiak and Carly LaBombard. The group helped the Crusaders overcome a 1-6 start in 2007-08 with a 12-3 finish.
“Catholic Central is always in the hunt,” said Bogucki. “[Coach] Chris [LaBombard] always gets the most out of her kids.”
Troy has a new edition in Lansingburgh transfer Jamiesha
Bruton, a 6-foot junior, to go along with returning seniors Shannon Jones, Emily Jones, Katie Heyward and Katie Fagan.
Notre Dame Bishop Gibbons, with one victory over the last two seasons, has five returning seniors led by captains Julia Milton and JaQuasia Chairs.
“Our expectations have changed. We’re looking to improve and sneak in a couple of wins here and there,” said third-year coach Doug Holden. “The girls had a great offseason getting ready for this.”
Coach: Leslie Bogucki.
Last year’s record: 8-4 Big 10, 17-6 overall.
Top returning players: Senior Shenekwa Stewart, senior Chana Simms, senior Alexis Hauser.
Coach: Eric Duemler.
Last year’s record: 12-0, 22-1
Top returning players: Senior Rachael Seymour, senior KC Dwyer, junior Michela Ottati, junior Hillary Rouse, junior Allie Zabo.
Coach: Julie Riley.
Last year’s record: 5-7, 14-8.
Top returning players: Senior Mariah Stewart, senior Stephanie Herold, senior Alexis Osbourne, sophomore Janae Lyde.
Coach: Chris LaBombard.
Last year’s record: 6-6, 13-9.
Top returning players: Senior Olivia DeMarco, senior Colleen Dignum, senior Dana Spiak, senior Caely LaBombard.
NOTRE DAME-BISHOP GIBBONS
Coach: Doug Holden.
Last year’s record: 0-12, 0-17.
Top returning players: Senior Julie Milton, senior JaQuasia Chairs, senior McKenzie Weatherwax, senior Erin Gardner, senior Liz Chevalier.
Coach: Carol Lupo.
Last year’s record: 6-6, 12-9.
Top returning players: Senior Sheila Dixon, senior Samara Butler, senior Amanda Colafemina, senior Amanda McLean, senior Antonia Williams.
Coach: Paul Bearup.
Last year’s record: 5-7, 8-13.
Top returning players: Senior Shannon Jones, senior Emily Jones, senior Katie Heyward, senior Katie Fagan.