EXETER — The Wyoming Area girls basketball team returns one of the Wyoming Valley Conference’s most dangerous shooters and one of its most dominant rebounders.
The Lady Warriors also head into the season with a third returning starter and a wealth of options when it comes to filling out the starting lineup and building a rotation.
In becoming a winning team the last two seasons, Wyoming Area has shown it can run and score. To take the next step, the Lady Warriors will try to become a more consistently tough defensive team.
Fourth-year coach Chad Lojewski said his team has embraced playing at a fast pace.
“They have encouraged me to support an up-and-down-the-court system,” Lojewski said. “The girls have been very influential in that. They want to get back to their roots with that, but they also recognize that we just can’t go out there and try to outscore everybody.
“We have put a definitive focus on defense in the preseason. That’s the part of basketball that’s more heart and effort than everything else.
“ … You have want to play hard defense. We’re breaking new ground there.”
Having so many players competing for playing team helps build the intensity to get used to playing tougher defense.
“The practices are really competitive,” Lojewski said. “Some parts of them are grueling, in a good way.”
Sarah Holweg is back for her fourth year as starter, Addison Orzel returns for her third and Aleah Kranson her second.
Holweg committed this fall to continue her career on the NCAA Division II level at West Chester University.
The all-star guard averaged 17.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.9 steals last season. She enters her senior season with 1,158 career points and 188 career 3-pointers made.
Orzel, a 5-foot-11 center, had as many as 30 rebounds in one game and had 20 or more four times last season. She finished as the team leader in rebounds (14.0 per game) and blocked shots (1.5) while ranking second in steals (1.8) and third in scoring (9.7).
Kranson, a junior, gives Wyoming Area a chance to use different looks in the backcourt. She and Holweg can each play both point guard and shooting guard. Kranson was second on the team in assists and third in steals last year.
There are many other players competing for playing time, including senior post player Kristi Skok, senior guard Jalen Rhodes, sophomore forward/guards Cassidy Orzel and Ellie Glatz and sophomore guard Nicole Silinskie. All saw playing time last season.
Skok helped the team in some late-season games.
Rhodes brings her track sprinter speed and the attitude of the team’s unofficial spirit leader.
Cassidy Orzel averaged 5.4 points per game as a freshman and showed she could jump into the lineup as needed with 17- and 16-point efforts.
A broken thumb cost Glatz the first six weeks of the season, but she joined Silinskie and Cassidy Orzel in getting some playing time as freshmen. Silinskie had seven points in a late-season game and six in the season-ending playoff loss to Dallas.
Juniors Brandi Sorokin and Jess Davis and freshman Maria Amato provide more options in the post.
Junior Lauren Kelly and sophomore Mackenzie Nocchi also saw limited varsity playing time last year. Nocchi has been slowed by an injury early in the season.
Angie Dore, an exchange student who has played at home in Italy, and senior Kelly Carroll are two more guards.
Sophomores Tinsley Sarnak and Brittany Spess are also on the roster.
Wyoming Area went 9-7 in the Wyoming Valley Conference and finished fourth of six teams in Division 2. Nanticoke and Holy Redeemer, each 15-1 a year ago, remain the divisional opponents that Wyoming Area will need to chase.
The Lady Warriors were 13-10 overall and fourth of 10 teams in the District 2 Class 4A playoff standings, but one year after coming within an overtime loss of the state tournament, they went out in the first round.
“It certainly wasn’t the ending that any of the girls were looking for,” Lojewski said.
Wyoming Area will open the season Dec. 8 at home against Susquehanna, the defending District 2 Class A champion.
In Lojewski’s time the program has grown from 34 to 51 players in grades 7-12.
“We now have more than 100 girls playing in third through 12th,” Lojewski said. “I’m not sure that’s ever happened at Wyoming Area.”
Larry Koretz takes over as the varsity assistant/junior varsity coach. Leonard Lojewski, Chad’s father, has been added as a seventh-grade coach.
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