In last Friday’s scrimmage, SCH sophomore Chloe Burns (left) looks to get the ball inside to junior Lindsay Hiner (right), who is being guarded by Mount St. Joe senior Emily Carpenter. In the background are (from left) Mary Kate Ulasewicz (Mount), Esssence Walden (SCH), Caitlyn Cunningham (Mount), and Sarah Wills (Mount). (Photo by Tom Utescher)

In last Friday’s scrimmage, SCH sophomore Chloe Burns (left) looks to get the ball inside to junior Lindsay Hiner (right), who is being guarded by Mount St. Joe senior Emily Carpenter. In the background are (from left) Mary Kate Ulasewicz (Mount), Esssence Walden (SCH), Caitlyn Cunningham (Mount), and Sarah Wills (Mount). (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

For the third year in a row, one of the first girls basketball scrimmages in the area featured Mount St. Joseph Academy and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. Instead of rushing to the malls for Black Friday sales, players and parents crowded into the MSJ gym at 9:00 AM for the trial run. It was the first interscholastic activity for the Mount Magic, while the Blue Devils gotten in a scrimmage two days before Thanksgiving.

Mount St. Joe suffered some major graduation losses from its 2013-14 team, which repeated as Catholic Academies champ, finished third in the District 1 Class AAAA playoffs, and ended the year 27-4 after reaching the second-round of the PIAA state tournament.

Three season-long starters on that ballclub were seniors; Alex Louin, Carly Monzo, and Colleen Steinmetz. Monzo, a forward, signed with Loyola University in Baltimore, where Mount grad Steph Smith is a senior on the team. Louin, a six-foot guard, is playing at Villanova University, where she is averaging 8.7 points and four rebounds per game, and was recently named Big East Conference Rookie of the Week.

The Magic suffered another personnel setback this fall, a season-ending knee injury to Steph Smith’s sister, Ashley. A sophomore guard, the younger Smith would likely have seen significant playing time.

Senior point guard Mary Kate Ulasewicz is one of the two returning starters for the Mount, and the other is junior Libby Tacka, who’s been starter at shooting guard since her freshman year. The second senior on the MSJ roster is 5’11” Emily Carpenter, who started in last Friday’s scrimmage against SCH and will remain a fixture in the first five.

The other two starters in the recent tune-up were forward Sarah Wills, who saw a good deal of playing time last winter, and guard Caitlyn Cunningham. The other two juniors, forward Kristin Lucas and guard Jenny Murphy, were both productive when they came off the bench.

The injury to Smith leaves three sophomores to round out the initial varsity roster, forwards Grace Gelone (a Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate) and Kieran Glowacki, and guard Julie Hoover.

Springside Chestnut Hill graduated guard Julia Schumacher and forwards Madi Sehn and Katie Shields from its 2013-14 line-up. When one of last year’s juniors, Olivia Byron, moved away, the Blue Devils lost another forward from last season’s squad, which went 9-14 overall and finished in the quarterfinals of the Pennsylvania Independent Schools tournament.

SCH placed fifth within the Inter-Ac League with a 5-7 record, but the Devils did manage to split in home/away series with two schools that ranked ahead of them, Germantown Academy and Notre Dame. The win against GA was only the second in the history of the Springside School/SCH program, and wins over Notre Dame are almost as rare in the school annals.

Guard Caroline Henry, a returning starter, is the only senior on this year’s roster. Fortunately there are four juniors with varsity experience, including guard Lindsay Hiner, who earned a starting role as a freshman. Along with Hiner, Marissa Pownall gives the Blue Devils some perimeter scoring punch, and point guard Drew Kevitch performed in a reserve role last year. Another 11th grader, Essence Walden, is not large for a forward, but the track athlete can use her quickness to beat larger players to the ball.

Among the sophomores is 6’1” forward Chloe Burns, a Norwood grad who started as a freshman last season. Guard Gabby Dunning, who was away at the time of last week’s scrimmage, returns to action after missing part of the 2013-14 schedule due to injury.

Some new power at the forward position will be provided by 10th-grade transfer Destini Curry, who is also a skilled soccer goalie. Another carryover from the SCH soccer squad is Emily McNesby, a freshman guard, and fellow ninth-grader Kayla McTamney was already performing in Vare Field House this fall as a member of the Devils’ volleyball team.

Eight-grade twins Delaney and Savannah Sweitzer saw a lot of time in last week’s scrimmage at the Mount; they are new students at the school. One of their classmates and teammates is Springside Chestnut Hill’s best-known student athlete, Taney Dragons pitcher Mo’ne Davis.

Davis has been at the local school and played in the middle school basketball program, but it made no sense for her to remain at that level any longer. Besides, the Blue Devils, who have now graduated a savvy point guard for two seasons in a row, really do need Davis to play varsity hoops.

She was not seen at Mount St. Joe last Friday, though; fresh off an appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, she was off to Los Angeles to keep another commitment. Earlier last week, she had played in a scrimmage against Central Bucks South High School.

The players who began the session at the Mount were Henry, Hiner, Pownall, Walden, and Burns.

While the Mount’s John Miller is beginning his ninth year at the helm of the Magic, the Springside Chestnut Hill girls are starting out with their third head coach in as many seasons.

New mentor Tony Tucker grew up in Delaware and played for Wilmington High School, where he was named the state Player of the Year in 1982-83. He began his college career at the University of Rhode Island, then transferred back home to become a standout at the University of Delaware. After that, he played professionally in France and in the Philippines.

He arrived at Springside Chestnut Hill in 2013, becoming the Director of Admissions for the Middle School. Settling into his new administrative role, he was not involved with the athletic program last year.

“It was the first time in 20 years that I wasn’t coaching,” he related.

Tucker has coached at a number of independent schools, such as Mercersburg Academy, St. Andrew’s School, and the University School in Cleveland. He also worked at IMG, a well known sports academy in Florida, and just before coming to SCH, he was on the staff at Elev8 Sports Institute, also located in the Sunshine State.

Although Mount St. Joseph doesn’t boast the overall talent level of many of its past teams, the Magic were just too much for the young SCH squad last weekend. The absence of Davis was probably a factor in the many turnovers committed by the Blue Devils. These were efficiently exploited by the Mounties, who outscored their guests by a wide margin during the five 10-minute running-clock periods played by the two teams.

“We’re very young, and it’s basically a rebuilding and start-over year for us,” summed up Tucker.

With the new skipper working at the school full-time, a sense of stability and continuity should be restored to the basketball program.

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