E.O. Smith has potential for a winning season

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Storrs - posted Wed., Dec. 14, 2011
Ashley Forand, Alexa Manaskie and Morgan Stewart vie for the ball. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Ashley Forand, Alexa Manaskie and Morgan Stewart vie for the ball. Photos by Melanie Savage.

If you can make it to an E.O. Smith girls’ basketball game this year, do it. They’re a lot of fun to watch. The team is coming off of a 19-1 season in 2010-11, experiencing a heart-wrenching loss at the Mohegan Sun Arena during the final game of the state tournament, with an injured Murphy Murad sitting on the sidelines. They graduated Maggie Sundberg and Page Gaspar. Sundberg, especially, was a tough loss, averaging 15 points per game for the Panthers in 2010-11. But stepping into Sundberg’s shoes this year is Ashley Forand, who has proven herself to be an able leader during the early games of the 2011-12 season.

Forand is backed up by an experienced cadre of starters. “I’ve got six seniors this year. I’ve never had six seniors before,” said head coach Kirk Murad. “This is a very balanced team, probably the most balanced team I’ve ever had.”

At a Dec. 12 practice session, the team had already easily put away both Berlin (final score 58-31) and Bloomfield (final score 81-31), and were looking ahead to a Dec. 13 game against a formidable Manchester High School team. “Manchester is going to be in your face for 32 minutes,” said Murad to his team early in the session.

“Manchester has some very strong players,” said Murad. “They’re going to be a big challenge for us. They’re going to press us and make us work for it.” But Murad expected his team to give it right back. “We like to run and we like to press,” he said. And his outlook for the season? “We should challenge Tolland for the division championship,” said Murad.

According to Forand, who serves as team co-captain alongside center Morgan Olander, the team is very close, both on and off the court. “I think that helps us overall in everything,” she said.

The seniors on this year’s E.O. Smith girls’ basketball team are: Morgan Olander, Ashley Forand, Taylor Vonasek, Morgan Stewart, Chelsea Combs and Alexa Manaskie.

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