SEASON PREVIEW: HUBBARD
The Hubbard High volleyball team has what the girls basketball team wants: a Trumbull Athletic Conference (TAC-8) championship.
The Lady Eagles spikers have won the last seven league titles. The roundballers, on the other hand, have yet to claim one. This may be the year they do it.
In 1999, Hubbard posted one of its most successful cage campaigns in school history, finishing with an overall record of 15-7 and 11-3 in conference play. For their efforts, the Lady Eagles finished second behind perennial rival Lakeview in the race for the TAC-8 crown, although they did beat Southeast in the playoffs before falling to Poland.
Even though Hubbard watched many of its best players from 1999 graduate (Megan Chovan, Michelle Chovan, Amy Wiseman), some prognosticators are picking the Lady Eagles to be the frontrunners for this year's league championship.
"It's kind of a strange favorite's role because everybody graduated a lot of players," said Hubbard head coach Dave Konczal. "So I guess a lot of people think we have the best of the younger kids. It's a crapshoot, because although I think we do, all younger kids develop at different times. I think that our younger kids are very good and are as good as or better than most. You just don't know how they're going to develop."
One of the problems that the Lady Eagles have encountered in recent years is a lack of height. That should not be a problem this season, not with a pair of 6-2 players on the inside in sophomores Katy Jo Mroski and Jill Phillips.
Mroski received a considerable amount of playing time last season as a freshman, and she produced, averaging eight points and 10 rebounds per game. According to Konczal, those numbers will have to increase this year.
"I've told Katy that every year you have to progress," said Konczal. "Last year, she was kind of a secondary scorer for us because of the four seniors. This year, she's going to be a primary scorer for us. We're looking for her to go out and get 12 to 14 points a game."
As for Phillips, she played on the freshman and junior varsity squad a year ago. Konczal is hoping that she will provide some relief for Mroski, who is sure to draw her share of double-teams.
"Jill's a legitimate post player," said Konczal. "She's big and strong and she plays well in the post. As a sophomore, we're going to ask her to do pretty much what Katy did last year, average six or seven points and seven or eight rebounds a game."
Even with Mroski and Phillips, the frontcourt isn't the Lady Eagles' biggest strength. That would be the backcourt, where Hubbard is as deep as any team in the area.
Leading the way is senior guard and co-captain Mollie Christine, who averaged four points and three assists in '99-00.
In addition, there's junior guard Angela Bata, who started for last season's JV squad that won 18 games; junior guard Annie Thompson; and sophomore guards Jamie Duvall and Anna DeJulio.
According to Konczal, Thompson has not played in a game since her freshman season due to the fact she's suffered two anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in the same knee the past two years. Despite that, she now appears to be fully recovered.
"She's doing a really nice job of bouncing back," said Konczal. "Every time we've scrimmaged, she's gotten more confidence in herself and in the knee. It looks like she's 100 percent healed."
Duvall and DeJulio have also been banged up as of late, with Duvall suffering from a bruised patella (kneecap) and DeJulio a jammed knuckle. Regardless, Konczal expects them to be ready for the season opener and expects them to make sizeable contributions.
"They're both outstanding," he said. "In Angela, Jamie and Anna we have three guards who I think could start for anyone in the league. We're that deep at guard."
At one forward for the Lady Eagles is senior Michelle Bellino, the team's other captain. Bellino averaged six points and five rebounds last season. At the other forward slot is junior Nyelia Page, who played sparingly in '99-00.
As far as the league race is concerned, Konczal said Badger will definitely be a team to contend with, although Champion and Lakeview will be forces once again, as well.
This is Konczal's fourth year at the helm of the Lady Eagles. His assistant coaches this season are Ron DeJulio (varsity assistant) and Ross Stouffer (junior varsity and freshmen). -- By Herald writer Matt Deutsch
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