Season Preview: Castagnolo Optimistic About Young Lady Bison Cage Team

HYDE – Rebuilding? Or reloading?
Many basketball coaches trying to bring along a young team that lost 80 percent of the previous season\’s offense as well as the lion\’s share of the rebounds to graduation probably would chose the former.
Not Clearfield Area High School\’s Joey Castagnolo, whose 2006-07 Lady Bisons finished 15-10 with Juliana Howell (184 points, 12.9 average, 34 three-pointers), Elizabeth Sopic (281, 10.5, 253 rebounds), Brooke Jordan (220, 11.0, 30 threes), Nikki Collins (216, 8.6, 26 threes, 4.2 assists) and Mallory Janocko (70, 2.9) providing the senior leadership.
\”I expect a good season,\” Castagnolo proclaimed midway through the preseason, expressing confidence in his ninth Lady Bison squad that boasts six letterwinners, though junior post player Annie Janocko (53, 2.1) is the lone returning starter.
\”We\’re awfully young,\” he pointed out, \”but I think we\’ll be all right. I really do.\”
The only senior on the team is returnee Alanna Luzier (118, 4.7), who usually came off the bench to give the Lady Bisons a spark with her shooting and her quickness.
The other letterwinners are sophomores Jayme Ryan (41, 2.1), Amber Byerly (18, 1.0), Madison Sopic (17, 0.9) and Elizabeth Peters (13, 0.7), all junior varsity regulars who also saw limited action with the varsity, their playing time increasing as the season progressed.
\”They played a quite a bit, but I blended them in with the seniors,\” Castagnolo said of what he terms a very talented sophomore group that includes point guard Gwenn Porter, who got into 13 games. \”They didn\’t get a lot of quality game-time experience, though Amber did get some quality minutes against good District 9 teams and helped win the Bradford game down here with her rebounding. And they didn\’t play together unless it was mop-up time.\”
That made the pre-season scrimmages critical for the Lady Bisons and Castagnolo, who prefers an up-tempo game and constantly changes combinations by bringing fresh players off the bench.
Locked into positions from the start were Luzier at shooting guard and Janocko in the post.
Ryan probably will be on the wing to provide a threat from three-point range along with Luzier.
Porter and Sopic will share duties at point guard.
Joining Janocko in the low post will be Byerly or Peters.
\”The girls who don\’t start will play a lot,\” noted Castagnolo, who added the junior Sarah Kovalick and sophomore Angela Moore also are expected to the rotation of players.
A little erratic with their shooting early on, the Lady Bisons hit a very encouraging 51 percent in the Brockway scrimmage.
Their overall quickness is a big plus, according to Castagnolo.
\”I thought we were really quick last year, but this team has really surprised me,\” he said. \”Alanna\’s really quick. I know Gwenn\’s a little smaller guard, but she\’s quick. Jayme is playing really quick, also. And the post players worked really hard all summer on their quickness with weights on their feet. Amber and Liz worked on their own a lot.\”
Clearfield wound up in a third-place tie in the District 9 League last year with a 7-5 record.
Castagnolo believes the Lady Bisons can be in the title hunt this season.
\”It\’s anybody\’s, because every team, right down the line, lost numerous seniors,\” he said. \”It\’s wide open. That\’s what we\’re trying to stress to the kids. It can be our league, but we have to work hard.\”
The Lady Bisons won\’t have to wait long to learn how they stand in the league, playing four D-9 opponents before the middle of December.
Because Easter arrives early next year, the PIAA season has been compacted so much that Clearfield will play 11 games before turning the calendar.
\”We\’ve been stressing a quick start,\” Castagnolo said. \”We play 10 out of 24 games before Christmas, so we can\’t mess around.\”
The Lady Bisons open Friday against Bald Eagle Area at 7:30 p.m. in the nightcap of the Clearfield Blast-Off Tournament. DuBois Central and Hanover will meet at 6. The teams will return to Weiss Gym Saturday for the consolation game at 3:30 p.m. and the championship game at 5.
Regular season games will tip off at 7:30 p.m. Junior varsity games will start at 6.
Castagnolo\’s assistant coaches are Jerry Stewart, in his ninth season, and volunteer Stan Solarczyk, in his third season.
The Clearfield roster, with (*) denoting letterwinners:
Senior – Alanna Luzier (*), 5-6.
Juniors – Annie Janocko (*), 5-10; Sarah Kovalick, 5-6.
Sophomores – Amber Byerly (*), 5-9; Kristen McKenzie, 5-9; Angela Moore, 5-5; Elizabeth Peters (*), 5-9; Gwenn Porter, 5-5; Jayme Ryan (*), 5-10; Madison Sopic (*), 5-0; Lori Zalno, 5-9.
Freshmen – Suzie Colesar, 5-10; Sierra Grice, 5-8; Johanna Ryan, 5-1.
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