Greenwich girls basketball team aiming even higher this season

Greenwich High School senior Rebecca DeCarlo pushes the ball up the court during last year’s state tournament game against E.O. Smith. Last year marked the first time in over a decade that the Lady Cardinals advanced to the state tournament. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich High School senior Rebecca DeCarlo pushes the ball up the court during last year’s state tournament game against E.O. Smith. Last year marked the first time in over a decade that the Lady Cardinals advanced to the state tournament. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Last season was quite the magical ride for the Greenwich High School girls basketball team and head coach Chrys Hernandez plans on continuing that run heading into this season as well.

“I have been pushing that goal on the team since I started and we aren’t wavering from that this year,” Hernandez said. “We plan on making states and making FCIACs. Last year we took a major step in that direction. Qualifying for the state tournament was a huge monkey off our backs. Going into this season, it’s a momentum builder. We aren’t satisfied just to make it last year. We want to do it again this year and also qualify for FCIACs.”

Last season saw the Lady Cardinals return to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL tournament for the first time in recent memory. Although GHS was picked to get hammered by No. 9 seed E.O. Smith High School, somebody forgot to tell Hernandez and her team, as they were within striking distance throughout most of the game before falling to the Panthers 44-39.

Greenwich finished 9-12 on the season.

For Greenwich High, last year was a milestone season for the Cards, as her main goal when taking over the basketball program at GHS was to qualify for states.

“I think the state playoffs was definitely a confidence booster for us,” GHS senior captain Rebecca DeCarlo said. “As a basketball program, there were so many teams that never got to experience that bus ride to a state playoff game. It was such a long ride and not on our home court, but the experience to get up there and play a tough team like E.O. Smith was great. I’m so glad we got to do that.”

Despite losing seniors Jenny Cespedes, Caroline Barrett, Daniela Hernandez, Gabriela Ruiz, Maureen Tracey, Rebecca Kural, Danielle Raviele and Brittany Rodriguez to graduation, Hernandez has another set of high expectations for her group of Cardinals.

“Coming into this season, I think we have a lot of potential,” Hernandez said. “Although we graduated a lot of seniors last year, a lot of talent comes from our underclassmen. The fact that we have them back, I think we can hit the floor running. The learning curve is a lot smaller than it has been in the past. With that said, we have a lot of freshmen, but they are also very talented. If they can pick up what we are doing here, we will be good to go.”

This season, Big Red will be led by three players. DeCarlo, who will be playing the guard position, will be the lone senior captain for the team.

“We have a lot going for us,” DeCarlo said. “We qualified for states for the first time in a long time. This season we want to build on that. We want to get back to states and make it two years in a row, but we also want to make FCIACs. To be in such a tough conference with a lot of great teams will be a difficult challenge, but I think we are all up for it.”

“I’m looking for Rebecca to bring to the table a lot of leadership,” Hernandez said. “She is also a captain for softball, so she knows the expectations and demands that are placed on her. She’s a tough player who attacks the basket.”

Juniors Jamie Kockenmeister and Alexa Moses will be the other two captains on Big Red.

“Alexa is, hands down, the vocal leader of the team and gets everybody going,” Hernandez said. “She has everything. She keeps them motivated and keeps the team into the game. I need her to do that and be that leader. Jamie plays everything for us. She took the off-season to heart and prepared really hard. She really has elevated her game and has worked extremely hard to get ready. She has a tenacity that I haven’t seen. She’s rebounding over girls that are twice her size and doesn’t take no for an answer.”

GHS junior captain Alexa Moses passes the ball to her teammate during last year's game against Norwalk. — Paul Silverfarb photo

GHS junior captain Alexa Moses passes the ball to her teammate during last year’s game against Norwalk. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Just like last season, Hernandez doesn’t have a set starting five, as she doesn’t want her basketball players to be comfortable in any role.

However, heading out of the preseason, junior Leigh Galletta will be running the point, while DeCarlo and Caroline Beneville will share time as the team’s shooting guards. Playing small forward will be Moses, while Kockenmeister will be Greenwich’s power forward.

“It’s my fourth year on the team and we have a great group of girls here this year,” DeCarlo said. “I necessarily don’t start, but I am looking forward to playing as much as I can to help the team. It’s not just one person on this team. We have a bunch of girls that can do a lot with the ball. It’s a great time being on this team. We have a great bond here and always hang out together.”

Leading the way in the middle and playing center for Big Red will be sophomore Abby Wolf.

“Abby took the summer and dedicated it to basketball,” Hernandez said. “She’s been in the gym, working out and getting stronger. She’s really committed to doing big things for this team. Caroline is a sophomore this year. Although she saw limited minutes last year as a freshman, she’s a possible starter for me this year. She has a great shot and isn’t afraid to find that open look at the basket.”

While a lot of talent is on the roster, Hernandez said that it’s crucial for the team to gel if they are going to be successful.

“They haven’t established themselves and don’t have an identity yet,” Hernandez said. “Although they’ve been together playing with each other for so long, they haven’t really developed that chemistry that I’m looking for. Since last year, we have a great sense for urgency. We have to capitalize on every opportunity. We aren’t the tallest team and with that said we have to finish everything that we do. We have to exploit weaknesses and finish on our end.”

While Big Red has a solid sense of urgency this season, Hernandez still sees room for improvement.

“I want them to be consistent,” the head coach said. “I don’t want peaks and valleys. We want to raise the bar and stay high.”

While Hernandez would like another run in the state tournament, she’s also adding a little more to Greenwich’s plate this time around.

“The FCIAC tournament is the second piece of our goal,” Hernandez said. “I told the girls that I think we have the strongest conference in the state. Every year this conference sends 10 to 15 teams to states and nobody else does that. We have work to do, but it’s still a top priority on our list.”

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