by Tom Utescher
The team captains for Mount St. Joseph Academy’s hoop squad this season not only share a love of basketball, but also the same first name.
One of the co-captains this season is senior Lauren Cunningham, a 5’10” guard-forward whose older sister Caitlyn also played for the Mount and is now starting her sophomore season at Jefferson University. The other captain for the Magic, 5’7” junior guard Lauren Vesey, is a multi-sport athlete who earned a spot in the Mount crew’s varsity eight this fall.
Senior Maggie Zipfel returns from last year’s varsity, and the third 12th-grader on the squad is Caitlin Iadonisi, who has moved up from the 2017-18 JV squad.
Two six-footers are returning starters, sophomore Grace Niekelski, an immediate impact player as a freshman last year, and Kelly Rothenberg, who also plays volleyball at Mount St. Joseph. At 5’10”, junior Audrey Bryce also provides size inside.
Varsity veteran Taylor Sistrunk can fill both guard and forward roles, as can her junior classmate Grace Morrow. A sixth 11th-grader, Maura Scanlon, is becoming a full-time varsity player at guard this winter.
Niekelski has some company in the sophomore class in the person of Paige Metzler, a guard who was sidelined last year after suffering an injury late in the soccer season.
Second-year head coach Jim Roynan is back along with his daughter, Emily, an Archbishop Wood basketball alum. Roynan arrived at the Mount after spending several seasons as an assistant coach at Lansdale Catholic, and now a new addition to the MSJ staff has also come from the Crusaders.
Joe Mack Jr. was the head coach at LC, but the time demands of a new day job caused him to resign that post and accept an invitation to work with the Magic.
Mount graduate Rebecca (Naab) Kaslow (’06) will be helping out with the varsity and JV programs. Steve Gelone, a Mount parent, is also working with the JV. He has served as director of the highly successful Snowball Tournament at Norwood Fontbonne Academy, where his two daughters attended school. Grace Gelone went on to play several sports at Mount St. Joseph and graduated in 2017, while Emma is in her freshman year at the Mount.
In their first tournament of the season, the Mounties will play another team from the Northwest suburbs, Germantown Academy, for the first time in many years.
Mount St. Joe is still searching for a tournament berth over the holiday break, though. After easily winning the Marple Newtown High School tourney last year, the Magic recently learned that they have been excluded from that event this time around.