Doubling its win total from the 2007-08 season, the Greenwich High School girls basketball team displayed marked improvement a year ago under coach Danielle Morgan. Now as Morgan said, the Cardinals are aiming to "continue that forward motion."
"We had some great wins last year," the second-year coach said. "A lot of times last year though, we would take a step forward and take a couple of steps back. I want them to continue that forward motion this year."
Greenwich, which begins its 2009-10 campaign tonight at 7 against host St. Joseph, has the experience and talent to earn a berth in the state playoffs and possibly make a run at qualifying for the FCIAC Tournament.
"I think we can definitely move forward this year," Cardinals senior co-captain Erin Laney said. "Definitely making states is one of our goals and of course, we would like to make FCIACs."
The 6-foot Laney is one of the players the Cards will rely on offensively and defensively. She gives the team a center with an array of low post moves and a soft outside shot.
"She (Laney) has improved a lot as far as her outside shooting and her ball handling skills," Morgan said. "She has that versatility as far as posting up as well as being able to take the outside shot."
GHS needs plenty offensively from Laney, as graduation claimed leading scorer Jana Jagodzinski. A threat to score every time she touched the ball, Jagodzinski eclipsed the 1,000 career point plateau last season.
Senior co-captain Jessica Fiscella should also spark the Cards in the scoring department. The shooting guard can help open the middle up for Laney with her perimeter game.
"I am looking for Jessica to shoot more this year," Morgan said. "Last year, we didn't see her shoot too much. She can really help us."
Greenwich, which started its season a year ago with a 74-66 win against Brien McMahon, is intent on being more consistent this year. Each of the Cardinals' six victories last season were followed with a loss.
"Once we had a win we kind of trickled down the hill, so we need to handle that better," Morgan explained. "When we get to the top of the hill we need to continue forward."
Said Fiscella: "We are working hard in practice and we have been looking good. We had a couple of scrimmages and we definitely showed what we can do."
AT THE HELM: Morgan is entering her second season as head coach of the Cardinals. Taking over a squad that finished 3-17 (2007-08), Morgan guided GHS to a 6-14 finish last year. Greenwich, however, was 6-9 after 14 games and lost four games during the season by five points or less.
Stephanie Ryan will serve as the junior varsity coach and Harry Lefflbine will lead the freshman team.
WHO'S GONE: Jagodzinski was the Cards' go-to player offensively for several seasons. The small forward went past the 1,000 point mark by scoring 19 points in a 43-26 triumph against Wilton last February. She became the first GHS girls basketball player to accomplish that feat since Dana Eikenberg did so in 1988.
Commencement also took Kristina Magdalinos and Ryan Mayo, both of whom helped the team offensively and defensively.
WHO'S BACK: Laney provides a formidable presence in the paint along with starting forwards Tori Dobson and Jennifer Biagiotti.
"We are going a little bigger this year," Morgan said. "Tori has a great outside shot as well and Jennifer has worked on her low post game and is taking it strong to the basket."
Sophomore Angie Jaramillo takes over at point guard for the Cards. As a freshman, Jaramillo played solid man-to-man defense and made some clutch shots.
"Angie is a spark for us, especially on the defensive side," Morgan said. "She does a great job of defending the ball and battling opposing point guards."
Also returning is sharp shooting guard Sandra Colon. The senior should aid the squad from the perimeter.
WATCH OUT FOR: Junior Maya Brounstein and sophomore Tory Carr will be relied upon to spark the Cardinals off the bench at the forward position. Rounding out the team are first-year varsity players Erica Ambrogio (sophomore), Caroline Barrett (freshman) and Ally Wilson (sophomore).
STRENGTHS: Greenwich has three post players who can score in Laney, Dobson and Biagiotti.
"Tory, Jennifer and myself are going to get a lot of rebounds," Laney said. "We are going to pound the ball down low and we are going to try to run. This year, we have the people to run."
WEAKNESSES: The Cardinals need to cut down on their turnovers, an area they are always working on improving.
"Offensively, we need to make sure we take care of the ball," Morgan explained. "A lot of teams in our league will press. Once we break that press we need to be patient, get good looks and take care of the ball."
GHS, which played man-to-man defense most of the time a year ago, will mix in a couple of zone defenses this season.
"Defense has been the main thing we have been practicing," Fiscella noted. "We have spent a lot of time on defense and have put in a few different types of defense."
SHOWDOWNS: After facing St. Joseph today, the Cardinals will host FCIAC foe Ridgefield in their home-opener on Friday at 7 p.m. Other games of note include: Brien McMahon (away, Dec. 16), Westhill (away, Dec. 18), Trumbull (home, Jan. 5), New Canaan (away, Jan. 15), Staples (home, Feb. 12) and Trinity Catholic (away, Feb. 17). The Cardinals will compete in the LaVista Tournament at New Canaan Dec. 28 and Dec. 30.
DID YOU KNOW?: Jagodzinski is playing on the women's basketball team at Drew University.