Antietam could be a 3-team race

December 02, 2009|By DAN KAUFFMAN

On paper, the 2009-10 MVAL Antietam girls basketball race looks like a three-team showdown between North Hagerstown, Smithsburg and South Hagerstown.

The Hubs -- who went 23-3 last season, shared the MVAL Piedmont title with Middletown and won the Class 2A West title to reach the state semifinals -- have a new coach in Cynthia Benjamin. She replaces Barry Brown, now the men's coach at Hagerstown Community College.

While North lost some top talent -- including Herald-Mail Washington County Player of the Year Kirksten Mitchell, All-County First Team selection LaRae Allen and All-County Second Team honoree Kishia Jackson -- the Hubs return All-County Second Team guard Quielanna Scott and several other contributors from last season.

"I'm expecting all the girls to get back to states again," said Benjamin, who was an assistant coach at Stephen Decatur and Catoctin over the past five seasons. "This team overall is deeper than last year. We have a whole bunch of varsity returners with a year of experience under their belt, so I'm pretty excited.


"I'm expecting we'll see some good competition. If we're not the best, we'll be right up there as long as the girls play the way they can play. There's no reason for us not to be at the top of the conference."

The Leopards went 15-8 last season, finished 8-2 in the MVAL Antietam to take second place, and reached the Class 1A West East Sectional semifinals. Four of last year's starters return, including All-County First Team forward Katie Sprecher and a pair of All-County Second Team post players in Allie Nickels and Sara Rishell.

Sprecher and Rishell, along with junior point guard Taylor Belella, were key contributors to Smithsburg's undefeated Class 1A state championship volleyball team.

"The volleyball players have experienced a lot of success already. That's a good thing for them, they're used to success and the key is to get everyone else on board and continue that winning attitude," Barnhart said. "South is going to be a team to reckon with, especially since they have a ton of speed, and North is still going to be very good. I think it will be competitive all the way around."

The Rebels, under then-first-year coach Amy Schmuck, started 0-7 last year before snapping a 55-game losing streak to start a stretch of .500 basketball over 14 games before finishing the season 7-16. South's turnaround should continue this season as the Rebels move from the Piedmont to the Antietam, anchored by All-County First Team guards Alex Silva and Luna Jefferson.

"People are asking us already how many games we're going to win," Schmuck said. "The kids are excited. With the experience we gained last year, we built a foundation and hopefully we'll expand on that this year.

"My kids last year had so much heart and determination, given what happened in previous years, to exceed expectations and win seven games. This year they're fired up to play the first game, and if we get a couple wins under our belts, I think anything's possible. If they hustle and show the dedication they showed in wins last year, who knows? I think we're going to be very competitive."


The Warriors, who went 16-7 overall and 9-1 to win the MVAL Antietam title last year, have been hit hard by graduation -- losing All-County First Team center Brynn Arnone and All-County Second Team guard Emma Dalton -- and even harder by injuries.

Boonsboro will play without four projected starters for at least the first couple weeks. Senior guard Cortney Silvis is out for the year after knee surgery and junior guard Ashley Smothers is still recovering from her own ACL injury. Senior forward Breanne Lohman could miss the entire season with a broken wrist, and senior forward Alison Griffith has a bad back. Sophomore guard Ashlyn Hawbaker is out with a broken foot.

"I believe the early part of the year we're going to be scrambling, but if we get some people back we could be really tough after January," coach Max Shaffer said. "We were going to bring (the younger players) on slow, but they're going to be in the fire now. They're going to have to grow up quick."

Those younger players include junior point guard Kara Nettleton -- the only projected starter who's healthy -- junior forward Becky Young and sophomores Amber Smith, a guard, and Morgan Tucker, a forward.


The Lions suffered through an 0-23 season in Year One of coach Curtis Litten's rebuilding plan. Litten hopes sophomore guard Katie Connolly, a transfer from New Life Christian in Frederick, Md., can make Year Two a little less painful. Connolly averaged about 13 points for New Life last season.

Senior post players Hannah Young and Charlotte Worsfold were key members of Broadfording's impressive volleyball team. Junior guards Ariana Litten and Kristen Grimm round out the projected starting five. Sophomore Abigail Worsfold made the Lions Classic all-tournament team earlier this season.

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