Mount St. Joseph Academy basketball players Carly Monzo (left) and Alex Louin have signed NCAA Letters of Intent for Loyola University and Villanova University, respectively. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Mount St. Joseph Academy basketball players Carly Monzo (left) and Alex Louin have signed NCAA Letters of Intent for Loyola University and Villanova University, respectively. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

As for every team in the first weeks of basketball practice, a lot of unknowns lie ahead for the Mount St. Joseph Magic, but at least two of the team’s seniors have a clear vision of their hoops future beyond the Mount. Four-year varsity players Alex Louin and Carly Monzo each signed an NCAA National Letter of Intent several days before the start of practice last Monday.

Louin, a six-foot guard, inscribed an agreement committing her to play for Villanova University, while Monzo, a 5’10” forward, put her name to a document that will send her south to Baltimore’s Loyola University, where MSJ grad Steph Smith is currently a junior in the Greyhounds’ program.

The highly-recruited Louin is a member of a very successful Philadelphia Belles AAU team, and at her very first league game for the Mount, in December of 2010, a coach from St. John’s University was already on hand to watch her play. Over the next few years, schools as prestigious and as distant as Stanford University joined a long list of serious suitors.

The distance part of the equation would be a key factor in her decision, especially because she has always enjoyed playing in front of her biggest fan, her grandmother, known to the Mount community simply as “Betty.”

“I kind of figured out during the process that I wanted to stay close to home,” said the lanky guard, whose other local options included St. Joe’s, Drexel, Delaware, and Princeton.

It didn’t hurt that her mother, Regina, is a Villanova grad.

“She wasn’t pushing for me to go there,” Louin said, “but growing up I was always following Villanova sports, so I guess it helped.”

In addition to being able to play close to home, she explained, “I knew I wanted a good academic school with a strong basketball program, so Villanova kind of met all the criteria. I like the new conference they’re in and I like their style of play because it seems like I kind of fit in with that. They like to take a lot of outside shots, penetrate and kick out, and stuff like that.”

In the reconfigured Big East Conference, ‘Nova will no longer face daunting home/away series against UConn and Notre Dame. Last year’s Inter-Ac League MVP, Episcopal Academy forward Megan Quinn, is a member of the current freshman class at Villanova.

“She was a year older than me on the Belles, so I’ve known her for a couple of years,” and Louin, who also played AAU ball with her friend Adrianna Hahn, a junior at Wilmington’s Ursuline Academy who has made a verbal commitment to Villanova.

In speaking with longtime Wildcats coach Harry Perretta, Louin related “He said that he likes to recruit tall guards. He liked my versatility, that I can play point guard or any other guard position.”

Going into her final high school season with a Division I college career on the horizon, Louin said, “I want to incorporate some of the new moves and the footwork that I’ve been working at on offense, and defensively I want to really try to shut down the other team’s best player, because I know that I’ll be facing good players every game in college.”

Carly Monzo said that versatility is also a quality sought after by Loyola skipper Joe Logan, a La Salle High School alum. Another member of Greyhounds’ staff with a Philadelphia connection is assistant Laura Harper, a Cheltenham High School grad who went on to win an NCAA Championship at the University of Maryland.

“They liked the fact that I can post someone up, or I can drive or pull up and shoot,” Monzo said. “It’s not easy to find the really tall girls, so they’re going with that four-out, one-in offense. They’re trying to make the players more interchangeable; two of the other girls they signed are the same size as me.”

Before coming to the Mount in ninth grade, Monzo attended Penn Charter, and her older brother, Tom, graduated from PC in 2012. He originally signed with Stony Brook for lacrosse, but now has transferred to the University of Richmond as a sophomore.

“The main thing he told me about the process was go for the school, not just for the sport,” she recalled. “Loyola actually made me an offer at the beginning of my junior year, and I had a whole year to think about it. I had a good look at some other places, but I kept coming back to the feeling that Loyola is the school for me. It’s away from home, but not too far away, and it’s in a city and has a really nice campus.”

Some personal recommendations also swayed her. Her cousin, Megan McNamee, who played Catholic Academies ball at Sacred Heart in Bryn Mawr, is a student at the Baltimore school. Of course, Monzo also received input from her former Mount teammate, Smith.

“She absolutely loves it,” Monzo reported. “She said she would rather go there even if she couldn’t play basketball than go to any other school where she could play. She also said you can’t find a more down-to-earth guy than Coach Logan, and that’s the feeling that I got.”

A fellow member of the recruiting class is Monzo’s teammate on the Lady Runnin’ Rebels AAU team, Madeline McDonald of Southern Lehigh High School.

This winter, Loyola is a new member of the Patriot League, which includes Pennsylvania colleges such as Bucknell, Lafayette, and Lehigh.

“I know last season Loyola beat a couple of Patriot League teams [Lehigh and American University] so they should be a good fit in that conference this year,” Monzo pointed out.

In addition to Monzo and Louin, fellow seniors Gen Hagedorn, Colleen Steinmetz, and Jenny Geatens were officially named to the 2013-14 Mount varsity team last week, when the rosters were announced by eighth-year head coach John Miller. Geatens is a new addition, having moved up from the JV squad.

The other returning varsity players are juniors Emily Carpenter and Mary Kate Ulasewicz, and freshmen Libby Tacka, Caitlin Cunningham, and Sarah Wills. Tacka worked her way into a starting role at guard as a freshman last season, joining Louin, Monzo, and 2013 graduates Adrienne Cellucci and Meg Geatens.

A third senior from last year’s team, Kelsey Jones, was injured for much of the season. She’s now a member of the program at Philadelphia University, while Cellucci and Geatens are both playing at Ursinus College.

In addition to Jenny Geatens, the new members of the current Mount varsity squad are junior Caitlin Morrissey and sophomores Kristen Lucas and M.K. Maloney. Among the MSJ freshmen named to the JV team were Steph Smith’s younger sister, Ashley, Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate Grace Gelone, and St. Philip Neri alumna Angela Gervasi.