SEASON PREVIEW: SHARPSVILLE
Rookie coach Heather Wiederstein has something to say to everyone who criticized the Sharpsville school board for hiring someone with no experience and belittled the girls for their lack of results.
"I don't agree with the statement that Sharpsville girls have no talent," she said. "When (my critics) said the school board was wrong for hiring a coach with no experience, it made me mad. The girls show me at practice that they want to win and they're ready to do something big."
Right now, the team is just looking for a win, something they haven't done since 1998, when they beat West Middlesex 41-39 in the fourth game of the season. Because of a 44-game losing streak and pressure from parents, former head coach Gus Grandy was forced out. Most people expect very little of this team. Most people, that is, except the Blue Darlings.
Wiederstein isn't coming into the season totally blind. She has been an assistant coach of the fledgling fast-pitch softball team at Sharpsville for two seasons now.
"People who haven't coached before don't realize how hard it is," she said. "Coaching is harder than teaching."
One plus for the Blue Darlings is their depth. They have a squad of 17 in both junior varsity and varsity, up from 13 last year, and lost just three seniors: Casey Bonaquist (167 points), Molly Murray (95), and Jessica Pisarcik.
Only one senior, Jessica Burnett (133 points), will take the floor, but the underclassmen are deep and strong. Juniors Candy Franklin (67), Amanda Gill (46), sophomores Josie Cattron, Australian exchange student Mel Gregson and Maggie Pisarcik (27) look to round out the starters. Also looking to soak up minutes off the bench is sophomore Ericka Black (26).
Other players filling out the roster are juniors Steph Vasconi and Arron Witzigman, sophomores Kenzie Develli and Alicia Mastrian, and freshmen Brittany Burnett, Elaine Janosko, Aleah Karsonovich, Christine Palazzo, Anna Phibbs and Shana Wilson. The bench looks to be 7-8 players deep, according to the coach.
Wiederstein brings her years of playing experience from the WPIAL to Sharpsville, and she plans to use a running break and pressure style of play.
"We've taken it up several levels defensively," she says. "(The girls) are faster and stronger than they've ever been. They've been working hard, running and in the weight room."
Wiederstein knows her team will have a rough time in a competitive division. In addition to conference foes Commodore Perry, Kennedy Christina and West Middlesex, the Blue Darlings also play Mercer, Reynolds, Sharon, Hickory, Meadville, Wilmington, Cochranton, Venango Christian and Conneaut Lake.
A lack of summer league action because of Wiederstein's late hiring may hurt Sharpsville, but the coach sees a lot she likes.
"The girls are ready to win, all they have to do is find confidence in themselves," she said. "One or two wins will do it. I'm proud of the way they've worked so far and I can't wait to see what they do with the season."
Wiederstein will be assisted by junior varsity coach Kerry Kohut, a former Sharpsville players. -- By Herald writer Scott DeJulia
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