E.O. Smith opens girls’ basketball season with a new coach

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Mansfield - posted Tue., Jan. 7, 2014
McKenna Dale controls the ball for E.O. Smith during a Jan. 4 game against Glastonbury. Photos by Melanie Savage.
McKenna Dale controls the ball for E.O. Smith during a Jan. 4 game against Glastonbury. Photos by Melanie Savage.

According to new E.O. Smith girls’ varsity basketball coach Mary Roickle, long-time coach Kirk Murad resigned in August 2013, relocating to Singapore with his family for a job opportunity. Roickle is an experienced coach at the collegiate and high school levels, with a gap of years in between as she worked in the biopharmaceutical industry. “Coaching has been my first love with a desire to develop young ladies on and off the court,” said Roickle. “Being semi-retired, I applied for the E.O. Smith position.”

Roickle’s experiences include being the head coach and women’s athletic director at Niagara University, where she led the Purple Eagles to an 84-19 record and an appearance in the NCAA Division II Final over four seasons (1976-80). She moved on to the University of Detroit and built a nationally-ranked, Division I program from 1983 to 1986 before taking on several management positions in the bio-pharma industry at two companies. “I recently returned to coaching at Manchester Community College from 2011 to 2012, taking a team of one sophomore and nine freshmen to regionals with a 15-8 record,” said Roickle.

Last year’s E.O. Smith team, which ended the season with a 17-3 record and a loss in the Class LL quarterfinals, graduated two starters – point guard Murphy Murad and guard Olivia Worski. “We have our work cut out, especially at the point guard,” said Roickle.

The team returns four seniors of 11 varsity players “who provide experience and leadership,” said Roickle. Holly Worski, last year’s leading scorer at 17 points per game, is joined by seniors Morgan Lawlor, Megan Moran and Nicky Fuentes. Isa Peczuh, a sophomore guard, and McKenna Dale, a freshman forward, “round a strong nucleus,” said Roickle. As of Jan. 6, the team had a 4-1 record.

According to Roickle, the team strength is “experienced, scrappy, quick, knowledgeable players with a focus on defense" as well as a strong shooting guard and forward play, and strong three-point shooters. Going forward, the team will work on meshing “to convert defense to fast-break opportunities and playing a deliberate offensive style when the fast break is not available,” said Roickle.

Senior Holly Worski is described by her coach as “a competitor whose motor is always running at game speed.” Senior Morgan Lawlor “is a swing guard/forward who does all of the ‘little things’ that may go unnoticed to most but contributes to our team success as tough defense, boxing out, making the pass before the assist and timely steals and scores,” said Roickle.

Senior Megan Moran, the team’s 6-foot center, possesses leadership skill that “inspires others to give their best effort,” according to the coach. “She is a solid defender who is developing her inside game to add a post presence,” said Roickle. Senior Nicky Fuentes, a point guard, “is steadily improving in her skills to lead the team on the court at the defensive and offensive ends,” said Roickle.

Senior Cristy Vicente, although out of competition due to shoulder surgery, “is our co-captain who attends all practices, providing off-the-court leadership to the team,” said Roickle.

The team’s goal for the year is the finals at the Mohegan Sun, said Roickle. “To accomplish that goal we must build our mental and physical capabilities to transition to a different style of play this year based on our players’ skill sets,” said Roickle. “We must improve every day in the areas of tough defense, controlled fast breaks and a deliberate offensive style to gain the best scoring opportunities.”

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