eschickler@bcnnew.com

Replacing Eliza Howe is a tall order for the Staples girls basketball team but it feels it can fulfill this task. Staples will use its depth to strive toward giving Coach Ed Huydic his 400th win (he enters the season at 395) in his 30th season at the helm and to make the state playoffs for the 26th straight year.

"I'm excited and I'm looking forward to it," said Huydic. "It's a much anticipated season following the success and bitter defeats of a year ago."

Last year, the Lady Wreckers finished the year at 13-8, 13-7 in the regular season. With a little luck, Staples could have done better as six of its eight losses were by four points or less and five were by three points or less, including two overtime games. In fact, the Lady Wreckers were the third seed of the FCIAC tournament going into their final regular season, but a two-point loss at Trinity Catholic eliminated them from the league tournament. Staples lost 59-56 in overtime to Manchester in the first round of the Class LL tournament.

Making up for Howe's 18.1 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game will be a challenge because the Lady Wreckers didn't have a consistent second scorer last year, instead, they had different players who got hot in spurts.

"Although we had a respectable 13-win season, the veterans know they can do better," said Huydic. "The loss of Eliza Howe, who is off to a good start at Hamilton College, is a great loss. We're looking for contributions across the board."

Working in Huydic's favor is the return of 12 players from last year's varsity roster, starting with senior captain point guard Suvi Puripattarapan. Puripattarapan is a four-year varsity player and was Second Team All-FCIAC last year and will be one player who is mainly expected to score in Howe's place.

"It's really hard with her scoring half the team's points," said Puripattarapan. "We're playing as a team and we'll try to distribute the ball among each other."

Senior captain Maddie Krakowiak was All-FCIAC Honorable Mention and will start at power forward or center once she recovers from a knee injury. Classmate Chelsea Salamone possesses a lethal shooting touch and was All-FCIAC Honorable Mention last year. Salamone will start at shooting guard.

Huydic hopes to use a three-guard offense at time sand sophomore Remy Nolan, is expected to start. Junior Nicole Brill, who is a clutch defensive player, will start at power forward and sophomore Jessica Coehlo is the starting center.

The injury bug has also struck junior forward MaryKate Van Sant, who is a reliable scorer and rebounder. Senior Caroline Accardi has improved her game and is expected to help out at power forward and center. Two senior guards, Lauren Romano and Tory Dodge, will come off the bench. Romano has a nice shooting touch and Dodge is a scrappy defensive player.

"Despite the injuries, the girls are ready to go," said Huydic.

Junior Jaclyn Katz had a stretch last year where she was on fire and started. Katz, who had soccer commitments, hopes to work her way into the lineup this year and be a contributor. Classmate Julie Strickland is a defensive sparkplug at guard and athletic sophomore Jessie Ambrose (the soccer team's starting goalie) hopes to see time at guard as well.

Freshman Erica Stein is a promising player according to Huydic, will also see time at guard.

"Going into the season, the workouts has been crisp and the attitude has been good and the work ethic has been on target," said Huydic. "This team is poised to set high goals for itself and we hope to make FCIACs and States. I think we can be a real pleasant surprise in the FCIAC tournament. There are a lot of things to build on and I hope we make a run in the postseason."

Puripattarapan said, "We want to win FCIACs because we have a chance if we go out and play our best. We have to play defense and score."

The starting lineup will be fluid, as Huydic will adjust depending on the situation and hopes to get everyone into the mix. Karen DeFelice is back as a varsity assistant. Eddie Huydic Jr. (head coach's son) coaches the JV team and Katie Lauten is the freshman coach. Two injured players, junior Julia Friedman and sophomore Lisa Shirafuji will serve as managers.

"It's a team I like a lot, including some of the dimensions the guards bring to the team," said Huydic Sr. "As we open the season, there's an air of excitement in our midst."