FCIAC girls basketball has been on a steady upswing, and that is likely to continue this year, with a number of teams entertaining realistic hopes of winning a title or at least advancing to the final.
Just five of the 16 players named to either the first or second all-league teams return, but there appear to be more good underclassmen than at any time in recent memory.
Defending champion Trumbull looks like the team to beat, while a pair or former powers seem poised to bounce back from a few lean years.
Trumbull. The Eagles have had such a strong program that the temptation is always to pick them higher than you think because the odds are in your favor. And they were hit hard by graduation losses, including top scorer Julie Keckler.
Still, Trumbull is a legitimate favorite, in large part because of their super sophomores, Allie Palmieri and Cassie Barbato. They were key contributors to last year’s FCIAC title run and they are going to drive coaches crazy on their whiteboards for another three seasons. Palmieri and Barbato will cause matchup problems, especially when combined with two more top starters, Meghan Lesko and Kelly O’Leary. The fifth starter, Krystina Schueler, was the league’s top volleyball player this fall.
Coach Steve Tobitsch has a deep bench, composed primarily of seniors and freshmen.
The machine rolls on.
Norwalk. The Bears finished in fourth place last season but suffered a discouraging first-round loss to Stamford. They have struggled getting any postseason momentum, and a confidence-gaining opening tournament win would likely go a long way to propelling the Bears toward fulfilling their postseason goals.
Norwalk will be in the title hunt behind Ashley Wilson, an All-State talent who can go on long scoring sprees. Wilson may see some junk defenses, which will open things up for Carsyn Langhorne and Sanaa Boyd. The bench is deep. If the Bears can get some early playoff mojo going, watch out.
Ridgefield. Is it possible to lose your best player and improve upon your previous season’s finish? The Tigers believe so, and it is easy to see why. Caroline Curnal graduated, but Ridgefield has a balanced lineup with players who benefited from their first year of varsity experience.
The Tigers will open without a senior in their starting lineup — Curnal was the only one last season. Few teams possess greater athleticism, led by Kate Wagner and Megan Klosowski, who scored the winning goal for the girls soccer team in its state final victory. Faith Arnold, Kate Garson and Katie Flynn complete the starting lineup.
Coach Tom DiMarzo has a bench with nine more non-seniors. Opponents may become dizzy as he throws waves of fresh players at them without a major drop in skill.
Trinity Catholic. The Crusaders used to be a fixture in the league title hunt, and this has the potential to be their best team in years, led by Iyanna Lops, who recently gave a verbal commitment to Cal State Bakersfield. She will form half of a strong 1-2 punch with Caitlyn Scott. There are promising young players whose development will likely determine how far Trinity goes into the postseason.
Danbury. Speaking of storied programs that hit a bit of a dry spell, the Hatters under Jackie DiNardo have been championship-starved for a few years. If you are looking for a team that right now appears on the periphery but can soar above, Danbury is the one. Guards Susana Almeida and Ty’Lynn Ith are the biggest and most experienced threats, while Sabrina Almeida — Susana’s twin — Tanisha Cunningham and Tianna Rogers round out the starting five.
Predicted Order Of Finish
4. Trinity Catholic
8. St. Joseph
Elle Fair, Staples
Megan Landsiedel, Stamford
Iyanna Lops, Trinity Catholic
Allie Palmieri, Trumbull
Ashley Wilson, Norwalk
Susana Almeida, Danbury
Cassie Barbato, Trumbull
Bridget Paulmann, Fairfield Ludlowe
Caitlyn Scott, Trinity Catholic
Kate Wagner, Ridgefield
Caroline Aufiero, Fairfield Warde
Emma Elrod, St. Joseph
Megan Klosowski, Ridgefield
Carsyn Langhorne, Norwalk
Jessica Nelson, Stamford
Danbury: Susana Almeida, Sabrina Almeida, Ty’Lynn Ith, Tanisha Cunningham, Tianna Rogers, Demia Moore, Christine Sangphet, Azariya Baptiste, Kianna Perry.
Darien: Erika Stevens, Gwen Dulce, Lindsay Dimonekas, Shea Dulce, Kelly Richter, Maggie Ramsay, Aerin Bowman, Rachel Stobbie, Hassana Arbubakrr.
Fairfield Ludlowe: Bridget Paulmann, Paige O’Connell, Anna Paulmann, Juliet Bucher, Emma Torello, Trish Carey, Ira Boci.
Fairfield Warde: Caroline Aufiero, Christina Krasniqi, Eva Fitzpatrick, Toni Lamparski, Alysha Henry, Carolyn Mills, Maya Henry, Kiersten Rodriguez.
Greenwich: Michelle Morganti, Taylor Stamos, Julia Conforti, Kristin Riggs, Kelly Martyanov, Jordan Moses, Ciara Munnelly, Kate Loughran, Nealia Mahiea, Marielle Povinelli, Violet Mikalopas.
Brien McMahon: Aija Andrews, Michelle Perea, Meagan Bombace, Michelle Menard, Bryanna Perez, Stephanie Skidmore, Lila Young, Kiarra Fortier, Ashley Aguirre, Isabella Dejesus, Natasha Guzman, Aija Andrews.
Norwalk: Ashley Wilson, Sanaa Boyd, Naeva Rene, Carsyn Langhorne, Belinda Hunte, Anaijah Morgan, Jakara Murray-Leach, Sereniti Mayhew, Lamia Ashley.
Ridgefield: Kate Garson, Katie Flynn, Faith Arnold, Megan Klosowski, Kate Wagner, Laura Jennings, Nora McNeece C Sabrina Grizzaffi G/F Rachel Tomasetti G Cali Steitzl G Cam McClellan F Claire Tannian F Bella Giordano C/F Kelly Chittenden
St. Joseph: Emma Elrod, Katheryn Zito, Kaitlin Capobianco, Tessie Hynes, Maddie Johnson, Rahmia Johnston, Veronica Lubas, Dennaye Hinds, Kate Rudini.
Stamford: Megan Landsiedel, Jessica Nelson, Claudia Moses, Dina Merone, Emily Graham, Charlie Karukas, Widline Thomas, Madison Lockery.
Staples: Elle Fair, Marissa Shorrock, Abby Carter, Marley Lopez, Alva Nordin, Nicole Holmes, Lexi Moskovit, Caroline Delaurentis, Sydelle Bernstein.
Trinity Catholic: Iyanna Lops, Caitlyn Scott, Kaya Nowlin, Emma Garner, Sarah Jablonsky, Theresa Lupinace.
Trumbull: Kelly O’Leary, Meghan Lesko, Krystina Schueler, Allie Palmieri, Cassie Barbato, Jenna Desabella, Bella McCain, Gianna Ghitsa, Maeve Hampford, Emi Roberto, Sarah Stolze, Emma Gentry.
Westhill: Grace Hansen, Maddy Bautista, Peyton Hackett, Candese Osborne, Caroline Kollar, Tamar Bellete, Jaedyn Carty, Dulce Llanos.
Wilton: Kaitlin Reif, Sophia Strazza, Maddie Burke, Zoe Rappaport.
(Teams not listed or with incomplete player lists did not reply to repeated requests for preview information)