By Ryan Lacey
The motto of the Staples girls basketball team heading into the season is "new beginnings." Not only does the record reset to 0-0, but a new set of faces will patrol the court as a legendary coach seeks to begin a new streak.
The state's second-longest girls basketball state playoff streak was snapped at 28 years last season as the Staples girls basketball team missed the postseason. Head coach Ed Huydic has been at the helm for all of those playoff appearances.
"That's what we hope," Huydic said. "We got to get (the) eight (wins to needed to qualify) out of this group. They feel it, I feel it, but right now I look at us as an average team in a way above average league. New beginnings is the motto and I hope we get there."
The strength of the Wreckers, who went 7-13 last year, will be their defense and ability to grab rebounds according to Huydic.
"The identity we want to see in this team is a developing identity, whereby varsity mentality is embraced, confidence grows and ultimately turns into a `we can' identity," Huydic said. "A `we can score, we can play great team defense, we can play better transition defense and we can win' identity. That's what we are looking for with this team."
The Wreckers lost sharpshooting guard Erica Stein to graduation as well as All-FCIAC second team guard/forward Nikki Bukkovsky. Junior Maggie Fair and senior Natasha George, who both saw some time in the backcourt last year, will be starting. George and Meredith Bemus, a center, will serve as captains. Kelsey Bobrow and Julia Bartimer will be key contributors off the bench.
Guard/forward Abby Lustig got more playing time as the season went along last term and demonstrated the ability to knock down the open shot. She will likely be the primary offensive option for the Wreckers and Huydic believes her game has grown.
"Abby is as versatile as any player we have; we are going to lean on her quite a bit," Huydic said. "Her decision making on the floor, her skill set, which could see her take to the basket as well as knock down perimeter shots. She has length that puts her in a position to guard (four positions)."
Staples opens its season with a pair of tough trips to FCIAC finalists Trumbull (Dec. 13) and Danbury (Dec 18) and finishes it at home against Westhill (Feb. 19).
"If you got to get rid of them early you might as well have them (first and second)," Huydic joked. "Obviously we walk in the doors in those two gyms 16-to-18 point underdogs, but we'll be ready."
Games against Darien (Dec. 27 and Feb. 7), Trinity Catholic (Jan. 14), New Canaan (Jan. 31) and St. Joseph (Feb. 11) will likely determine the Wreckers' playoff fate.