LUNENBURG – Lunenburg might be an older team in class rank, but it is a little green when it comes to starting experience. Still there is optimism on Massachusetts Avenue as the girls’ basketball team is scrappy, willing to work hard, and feels improvement from last year’s team is almost a lock.
Scrappiness and work ethic will determine how far the Blue and White will go, as those are the biggest factors needed to secure some quality victories.
Lunenburg is looking to rebound off a 2-18 season from last year, but on the bright side there are 9 seniors in the program. However on the negative side, many of the seniors lack starting experience.
Two seniors that haven’t played joined the team in Julia Acampora and Katelyn Melvin, while some returners include Chloe Koziol, Emma Kibbe, Erin Peplowski, Abigail Shapiro, and Grace Sweet.
“We’re looking to have a good year, be fast paced and up-tempo,” Lunenburg girls’ head basketball coach Josh Koziol said. “Run, not settle into the half-court offense if we don’t have to. We run two pretty aggressive full-court presses, and are looking to get a lot of points off turnovers, and just rotate 10-12 girls through who can play and give us minutes on the defensive end, and we’re going to try and get points off the transition game.”
With a bit of a lack of height, as 5 foot 7 inches to 5-08 are the tallest on the team, Lunenburg is looking to be scrappy, hustle, and force their opponents into chaos. Sweet is a presence in the post, being a 3-year varsity player, and brings a high level of physicality and knows how to maneuver herself down low.
Kibbe doesn’t shy away from physicality either, and is willing to give 110 percent effort every time she touches the court, Josh Koziol says. She has a willingness to do anything, and usually positions herself as the safety position in the trap.
Sophomore Chloe Koziol will be relied upon to produce a high amount of points for the team. Peplowski will have the same demands for offensive production. Both are quick guards with strong ball-handling skills, and the capability of shooting inside and outside. Peplowski led the team in scoring last season.
“We’ve got a lot of athletes,” Josh Koziol said. “But we have girls that come out every day and give me 150 percent and give each other 150 percent. We’ve got a team mantra of believing in each other, themselves, the team, and seeing what happens.”
Lunenburg opened the season in the Buddy Tackett tournament, departing with a 43-21 victory over a highly touted small school in Ayer Shirley Regional. The transition defense in the game caused a lot of difficulties for the veteran Panthers.
One of the goals for this season is getting experience for the sophomores and juniors, as graduating 9 seniors will take a toll on the experience level of the team for next season.
Acampora took two years off, but returns as a true athlete and should contribute in the full-court press. Katelyn Whitney will come off the bench and contribute, and her skill set features being more of a distribution type player.
Morgan Jarrett brings a lot of athleticism with good hands, and knows how to operate in the post and get to the basket. Jarrett has the benefit of being quicker than most players defending her.
Melvin is a senior returning after two seasons off, and could play a key role holding down the fort to give some of the starters a breather without a drop off in ability. Shapiro is a driven player, willing to do whatever is asked, and will be situated in the post.
Ellie Zivojinovic is the tallest player on the team, and has the ability to shoot outside for a big. Mackenzie Belleza is the top 3-point threat on the team, and takes pride in solid half-court defense.
Lauren Anderson is building experience as the season goes with an anticipated larger role coming for next season.
Lauren King is a swing varsity/junior varsity player. Abigail Miller and Caroline Ayles will also have a similar dual role, as well as Lyla Dellasanta.
Guards Chloe Koziol, Peplowski, and Kibbe and forwards Sweet, and Belleza will serve as the starting 5 in the early part of the season.
“I’m super excited,” Josh Koziol said. “So far they’ve worked really hard in practice, got a well-deserved win (game 1) based off the work they put in. This team is going to be about energy and defense. We need to get turnovers and create transition points. If we have to settle into a half-court offense, we need to get multiple shots off, and rebound on the offensive end.”