Germantown Academy freshman Cat Polisano (right) goes to the hoop against Maggie Cameron of Gwynedd Mercy. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Germantown Academy freshman Cat Polisano (right) goes to the hoop against Maggie Cameron of Gwynedd Mercy. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

On Monday of last week, the girls of Germantown Academy played host to Gwynedd Mercy Academy as the Patriots and Monarchs engaged in one final scrimmage before the 2014-15 basketball season officially got underway. Both GA and Gwynedd were relatively young teams last year, and they’re each looking forward to a successful season with a more experienced group of players on the floor.

Forward Margaret Anne Hubbell, the 2013-14 Inter-Ac League MVP, is now posted at West Point, but she is the only player the Patriots lost to graduation last spring. Once again, there will be just one senior on the roster this winter. Olivia Gorman is a four-year varsity player at guard and was an All-Inter-Ac First Team selection last season. She plans to play both basketball and softball in college at a small school with a strong academic program.

Junior Kendall Grasela, a 5’10” junior guard, has been a staple of the GA program since she was a freshman, and her classmate Erin Lindahl, another back court player, saw varsity minutes as a ninth-grader. Gorman, Grasela, and Lindahl are team tri-captains for 2014-15.

Junior Lauren Oeth is a 5’11” forward who’s going into her third season of varsity ball, and two other 11th-graders, guards Maeve Connor and Leena Kardacz, saw a good deal of time off the bench last winter. The same can be said for guard Abby Starzecky and her sophomore classmate, 5’11” forward Lilly Bolen. The third member of the current sophomore class is guard Jessica Sheridan.

Two freshman forwards, six-foot Alexa Naessens and 5’10” Cat Polisano, have earned spots on the varsity squad. Three other freshmen will primarily play junior varsity basketball and may occasionally swing “up.”

They are guards Maddie Cooper, Maeve Gorman (no relation to Olivia), and Elizabeth Wescott.

Head coach Sherri Retif is entering her 17th season with the Patriots, but this year there’s a brand new face next to her on the GA bench. Kristen Fuery, a recent addition to the coaching staff, attended the old Springside School for many years before transferring as a sophomore to Upper Dublin High School. She graduated in 2010 and went on to play for College of the Holy Cross and Gwynedd Mercy University.

Last winter, GA finished 20-7 overall, and was runner-up in both the Inter-Ac League (9-3) and in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools championships. After Episcopal Academy won the league crown for the second year in a row, Germantown upset EA in the semifinal round of the PAIS tournament. The Patriots then lost in the finals to Friends Schools League champion Shipley School.

While GA supporters are rooting for their club to win their first Inter-Ac title since 2012, Mount St. Joseph Academy fans will need to keep a watchful eye on Gwynedd Mercy. The Monarchs hope to end the MSJ Magic’s two-year reign as champions of the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies.

Gwynedd lost to Mount St. Joe in the semifinal round of the AACA tournament, but while the Monarchs graduated a handful of seniors, much of their top talent was concentrated in the younger classes. This season, the only returning starter in the senior class is a reliable mainstay at guard, Emily Sullivan. She is a team tri-captain along with two juniors, shooting guard Brigit Coleman and hardworking forward Erica DeCandido.

Coleman missed much of the season last winter due to a knee injury. It’s hoped that her return, along with the presence of freshman guard Maura Conroy, will give opposing defenses multiple threats to consider so that they can’t just gang up on Sullivan. Conroy, who led a strong grade school squad at Ancillae Assumpta Academy last season, started for GMA in last week’s scrimmage against the Patriots. Both she and Coleman appeared to have their three-point strokes dialed in at this early stage of the season.

The varsity section of the scrimmage consisted of five eight-minute periods. At the end of the first four – the equivalent of an official game with a few tweaks to the rules – each of the ball clubs had scored a total of 31 points. In the fifth period, two three-pointers by Connor helped produce a 7-0 outcome in GA’s favor.

UPDATE – GA played its first official game last Wednesday, travelling to New Jersey to top the Pennington School, 45-22. In a balanced effort, Bolen registered nine points and three rebounds, Grasela (six assists, five steals) and Naessens (four rebounds) each scored eight points, and Oeth churned out six points, 11 rebounds, and eight steals.
Gwynedd opened up on Friday with a 52-34 win over Downingtown East High School, with Coleman ringing up a game-high 18 points.