by Tom Utescher
After a long period of stability, the Mount St. Joseph Academy basketball team is entering the 2017-18 season with its third head coach in as many years. After John Miller ended his 10-year run with the Magic, MSJ alum Claire Perry did a good job of piloting the squad last season, but she has relocated to the West Coast.
Under Perry, the Magic came in third in the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies, and as the seventh seed for the District I tourney, the Mounties overachieved and finished as the district runner-up.
Although Perry has moved on, the Magic found a coach with decades of experience ready to step into the top job. Years ago, Jim Roynan played high school hoops not that far away from the Mount, at Wissahickon High School. He coached for many years with the AAU Renegades program, working with players at the high school and middle school age levels. For the past three seasons, Roynan was an assistant coach at Lansdale Catholic High School.
He coached his daughter, Emily, in club ball, then saw her go on to play for Philadelphia Catholic League powerhouse Archbishop Wood. A 2008 graduate of Wood, Emily Roynan is now an assistant coach at the Mount.
Providing continuity is Rebecca Kaslow, who returns as an assistant coach for the Magic. As Rebecca Naab, she played at the Mount herself, graduating in 2006.
The Mount will have an entirely new starting line-up this season, since Perry started all five of her seniors last winter. Last year’s sixth man, guard Grace DiGiovanni, is back as part of a solid senior class that includes forwards Megan Dodaro and Maddy Getty, guard/forward Erin Bethel and point guard Deirdre Regan.
Another veteran and current senior, forward Liana Alcaro, will be back on the sidelines but not on the court, since she is rehabbing from knee surgery. She is a team co-captain this season, along with DiGiovanni and Regan. Moving up to the varsity are seniors Nora Denton and Alexa Silvestri, and the two juniors on the roster are Lauren Cunningham and Maggie Zipfel.
Last season, guard Lauren Vesey was the only freshman who was a full-time varsity player. Forwards Taylor Sistrunk, Audrey Bryce and Kelly Rothenberg are the other sophomores, and once more a freshman has earned a spot on the varsity team. This is 5’10” forward Grace Niekelski, who plays for the AAU Comets and whose older sister, Maddie, is a junior who is a member of the Mount’s field hockey team.
The team’s schedule is much the same as in recent seasons, although the Magic will be appearing in a new post-Christmas tournament for the first time in many years. Seeking stronger competition, the Mount accepted an invitation to appear in the tourney at Marple Newtown High School.