SEASON PREVIEW: GROVE CITY
The Grove City Lady Eagles return just one senior from last season's 17-9 campaign. That would cause concern for a lot of basketball programs.
But that concern has drifted away. That's what the return of seven junior letterwinners can do for a team.
"I think we have a lot of depth," Grove City head coach Roger Flynn said. "From that standpoint, I think we have a lot of potential."
Among those seven juniors is 6-1 center Chelsea Smith. Smith, who has received accolades from some nationwide publications, averaged over a dozen points per game as a sophomore.
During the summer, Smith (319) played in several AAU tournaments around the nation.
"She has worked incredibly hard," Flynn said. "She should really blossom this year. She has gotten much stronger."
Junior forward Angela Burk (202) also returns. Her presence prevented teams from focusing all of their post defense on Smith.
"She's a steady inside performer," Flynn said of the 5-9 Burk.
Also back is junior point guard Amber McFeely. Another two-year letterwinner, the 5-4 McFeely (189) has grown six inches since her freshman season. According to Flynn, she has also grown as a basketball player.
"She has grown and matured," Flynn said. "She also has gotten stronger."
Joining McFeely in the Lady Eagles' backcourt is 5-7 junior Carly Denniston. Denniston is returning after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament last January. Three other junior guards will be in the rotation this season as well, giving the Lady Eagles added flexibility -- 5-3 Shannon O'Neil, 5-4 Chalsie Redfoot and 5-5 Kristin Losasso.
"Shannon has really been a spark plug for our defensive pressure," Flynn said. "All three are very aggressive defensive players that work really hard on the floor. It gives us a dimension we didn't have last year."
Completing Grove City's eight-player rotation is senior swingperson Trish Krantz (166). Last year, the 5-11 Krantz averaged 6.3 points per game.
"Trish has been a good leader," Flynn said. "She has gotten off to a good start."
Krantz's height on the perimeter could provide some defensive problems for other teams.
"She's always been, generally, a perimeter player," Flynn said. "With her, Chelsea Smith and Angela Burk, that gives us a nice setup."
Grove City's ability to mix and match players on the floor could also be beneficial this season.
"We have a variety of lineups we can use," Flynn said. "Depth is an asset if you have it. We'll use a minimum of eight players and there's not going to be a dropoff at all."
The Lady Eagles' biggest concern is a December schedule that features clashes at AAAA powers North Hills and Seneca Valley, as well as trips to Mercer, Kennedy Christian and Reynolds.
"Our December schedule is the most difficult we have faced," Flynn said. "The kids know they have to be ready to play. If we come out of December 5-5, I'd be elated."
Flynn considers Sharon to be a favorite for the Mercer County Athletic Conference AAA title.
"Sharon, like us, returns almost everybody," Flynn said. "Slippery Rock and Hickory suffered some losses, but they are well-coached programs."
Flynn is assisted by junior varsity coach Mike Hostetler. -- By Herald writer Ryan Briggs
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