Greenwich girls hoopsters start season with win over Stamford

Greenwich High School senior Leigh Galletta works the ball past her Wilton opponent during last year's FCIAC semifinal game. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich High School senior Leigh Galletta works the ball past her Wilton opponent during last year’s FCIAC semifinal game. — Paul Silverfarb photo

The Greenwich High School girls basketball starts its season in grand fashion Wednesday night, upending Stamford High School 71-61 at the GHS gymnasium.

“It feels really good to get the victory,” Greenwich High School head coach Chrys Hernandez said. “The girls played really hard tonight. Stamford came out and got a really good start of us and we went down 10 points in the first couple of minutes, but we fought back and maintained our composure.”

Senior Jaime Kockenmeister led the way for Greenwich with 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals. Not to be outdone was junior Abbie Wolf, who grabbed a team-high 21 points and six rebounds.

Senior Alexa Moses added 11 points, while Leigh Galletta finished with 10 points, four assists and four steals. Caroline Beneville rounded out the scoring for Big Red by also taking home 10 points.

“One of the keys to our success this year is relying on all of our players,” Hernandez said. “Having all my starters finish in double-digits shows how we play as a team. We had three of my starters tonight, including Abbie, go down with four fouls heading into the fourth quarter. We had people from the bench step in and maintain our lead. The girls handled the adversity well and really rose to the occasion.”

With the victory, Greenwich started the season 1-0. And that’s a good thing for Big Red, as with nearly the entire roster returning from last year’s team, Hernandez has another set of high expectations for this year’s squad.

“When I look at this team, I see a lot of experience,” Hernandez said. “We are returning so many girls that we finally have experience on my side. They’ve been with me for all four years now. I have my first class of seniors. I am just excited because they know what I want, they know how the program is run and knows what it takes to get there.”

Last season, Big Red had a breakout year, ending last year with a 15-7 record. They not only qualified for the FCIAC postseason, but they advanced to the semis before falling to Wilton.

In the CIAC class LL tourney, the Lady Cardinals blasted Bristol Central in the opening round before falling to South Windsor to end its season.

“I am hoping to bring back the same exact competitive nature that we’ve been building the entire time,” Hernandez said. “With so many returners, I am looking to pick up right where we left off last year. The way our schedule is set up, we really don’t have a lot of a warming up period. Four of our first five games are against top teams. I need to be aggressive.”

The Cardinals will have four senior captains this season, as Kockenmeister and Moses are returning captains from last year’s squad. In addition to the duo, Galletta and Colleen Bennett will round out the captains.

Hernandez said that all four captains bring something different to the table. Moses brings her outstanding leadership abilities, as well as tenacious defense abilities, to the team, while Galetta has been running the point for Big Red for over two seasons.

While her name doesn’t frequent the box score too often for Greenwich, Bennett’s effort and other intangibles are keys to the team’s success. When it comes to an all-around player, the Lady Cardinals look to Kockenmeister as the catalyst, as she handles the ball well, shoots the ball well, is a solid defender and a solid leader.

“I am looking for them to be leaders and to step up and lead by example rather than verbally,” Hernandez said. “Although our varsity team is pretty experienced, we have a very large underclass population in junior varsity. I need my captains to be able to set the standard to pass our expectations on to our underclassmen as well. With the four of my captains put together, they are a really good combination.”

In addition to the quad-captains, Big Red will be paced by junior Abbie Wolf.

“She’s only a junior this year and has done a great job developing her game and putting in the time to work and get better in the offseason,” Hernandez said. “I am looking for her to continue to build off the success that she’s had in the past.”

Behind Wolf is Emily Anderson, who has been solid for Greenwich in the post. In addition, Beneville will once again be the three-point shooter on the team.

“I really like Emily’s post moves and footwork,” Hernandez said. “She’s great for us and when she really gains her confidence up, she will be a force in the FCIAC. Caroline was like a silent assassin for us last year. She’s a great shooter from the outside, but she can also drive hard to the basket and finish. That’s going to be key for us.”

One of the biggest strengths for Big Red this season will be the team’s experience and camaraderie and how that translates on the court.

“These girls have been playing with each other, in and out of season, for over four years now,” Hernandez said. “They know their tendencies, know where to look for each other and know how to set each other up. That is key for us because that gives us multiple options and different ways to score. It makes our offense a lot more free-forming.”

While putting points on the board shouldn’t be an issue for Big Red this season, Hernandez believes that the team’s defense will be the key to its success.

“I think we are going to make a name for ourselves with our defense,” the head coach said. “It’s always been what has propelled our offense and there’s not going to be a letdown with that this year. One of the things I would like to clean up is our ability to handle the ball and handle pressure.”

In order for Greenwich to achieve its goal of bringing home a championship trophy to the high school, Hernandez knows that her Lady Cards need to be more consistent.

“I still don’t think we are as consistent as we need to be,” Hernandez said. “We are looking for championships and that’s our ultimate goal. We’ve made strides in the past and put ourselves in position to be successful, but we still haven’t reached our ultimate goal. We are focused, but we also need to be more consistent. If we are consistent, we will be exactly where we need to be come March.”

With the plethora of experience and talent coming back this season, the sky is the limit for Hernandez and the Lady Cardinals.

“The goals on this team really don’t change that much,” Hernandez said. “Our first goal is to make the FCIAC and state playoffs. Other goals are to out-rebound our opponents and to hold them to a certain point percentage. I want us to be more consistent in our own play, limit our turnovers and be over 75% from the free throw line. The big things are in place. We’ve done those, so how it’s about tweaking them a little bit.”

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