Defending champs face a rebuilding year

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Windham - posted Wed., Dec. 7, 2011
Nicole Moore works on her layup on Dec. 5. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Nicole Moore works on her layup on Dec. 5. Photos by Melanie Savage.

The Windham High School girls’ basketball team put together an inspirational season last year, battling hard to come up with the Division “M” state championship. They enter the 2011-12 season with virtually a new team, having lost 11 seniors to graduation. Only one remaining player, senior co-captain Jackie Riera, has any significant experience at the varsity level.

“Kelly [Leist] and Bridget [Desautels] had some time on the court last year, but I think I had the most,” said Riera. With so many competent seniors on the 10-11 team, the younger girls didn’t see much varsity court time. “The maturity of the varsity players isn’t what it was last year,” said Riera. Riera is expected to be the go-to shooter for the team, “but they’re not used to varsity play yet, so I’m going to be helping them with handling the ball,” she said.

Two pre-season scrimmages, against Parish Hill and Hartford Public, “went very well,” said assistant coach Melissa Kissane. “It’s definitely a young team, but we’re still looking to go and make a name for ourselves and show that we’re a team that’s going to work hard.”

After the scrimmages, Riera felt that maintaining control under pressure would be a key skill for the team to work on going forward. “We need to handle the ball and keep control of it,” she said. At practice on Dec. 6, head coach Ken Valliere had the players working on layups and other shooting skills. “A lot of people don’t feel comfortable with their shot yet,” said Riera. “We need to get more comfortable with our shooting.”

"Coach Valliere is being understanding,” said Riera. “He’s really helping us.”

“We’re going to do our best to make last year’s team proud,” said Riera. “I think we’ll work really hard, and we’ll definitely win some games.”

Seniors on this year’s Windham High School varsity girls’ basketball team are Jackie Riera and Kelly Leist. The Whippets play their first game of the season against Waterford, an away game, on Saturday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m. For a full season schedule, go to

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