It is a testament to the state of the Trumbull girls basketball program that you can attribute its slump the last two seasons due to a reliance on underclassmen.
Slump is being defined as not reaching the FCIAC championship game.
The Eagles had previously won two straight titles, ending a run of five appearances in the title game in eight years.
Those underclassmen are now part of a nucleus of a team coach Steve Tobitsch believes is capable of bringing the championship trophy back to Trumbull. But an abbreviated season in the midst of a pandemic means a recalibration.
“Everyone has a different perspective this year,” Tobitsch said. “It is just good to get to compete again in games. Be part of a team. We will see how everything plays out once we start playing games.”
The season opens tomorrow with one of the most anticipated games of the winter. The Eagles host Ridgefield, the defending league champion, in a rematch of last year’s semifinal.
Both teams have a lot of returning talent and the outcome will set an early tone for a 12-game season that will conclude with a conference tournament in which every school qualifies.
The Eagles are excited to have a roster comprised mostly of seniors and juniors.
“We’re definitely looking forward to the season, having those veteran players who understand the concept of the game and how we play basketball at Trumbull,” said senior Cassi Barbato, who led the team last season in scoring and has the versatility to contribute in every area. “It’s definitely a lot more fun to start off. I’m excited for what we’re going to do.”
Barbato, an All-State selection, will be joined by three other returning junior starters: Emi Roberto, who was second team All-FCIAC, Sarah Stolze and Emma Gentry.
“We’re all really excited to have a veteran returning team and we have such strong upperclassmen,” Stolze said. “We want to take advantage of every opportunity that we’re given and every game we get to play this year. We’re just excited to get to play together.”
One of the Eagles’ strengths has been a wealth of balanced scoring over the years, and this one is no different. Barbato would get more opportunities on another team and is at the top of opposing scouting reports. But Barbato is as comfortable with assists as baskets, and there are a number of players who can lead the team in scoring on any given night.
“That’s definitely our hope,” Tobitsch said. “We always try and say have four players score in double figures each night. If you do that and you have four players with 10 points you have 40, and you can fill in the rest from there. It really doesn’t matter who gets those. As long as the team is understanding of that. This team is very unselfish. It is more about sharing the ball and playing together and that’s what I’ve seen during these early practices.”
Putting the ball in the basket is a secondary skill for the Eagles, following keeping opponents from doing the same.
Asked the key to the season, Barbato said, “Definitely defense. I say that every year. It doesn’t change. Defense wins championships, offense wins games. You can’t play offense if you don’t play defense. And holding teams to a certain amount is essential so we put less pressure on our offense and can run more stuff.”
Trumbull lost in the state quarterfinals a year ago, the night before the CIAC canceled the remaining of the winter season and completion of the playoffs.
The wait and uncertainty about this season left the Eagles admittedly uneasy.
“We were hoping to have some semblance of a season and it is fun when you get upperclassmen to coach,” Tobitsch said. “We’ve been very young the last couple of years. It makes it a lot easier as a coach when you have juniors and seniors leading practices rather than freshmen and sophomores. They know the expectations we want to practice with, the pace, the tempo. It’s definitely been very enjoyable. It’s great to be back on the court.”