By Jackie Fletcher, Opinions Editor
In the span of just three short years of varsity play, the Monarch basketball team has metamorphosed from a group of inexperienced freshmen to a veritable and formidable force to be reckoned within the competitive Shore Conference.
This season, seniors Bridget Andree, Kathryn Kwapniewski, Catherine Loder and Nicole Ventura continue to be leaders on the court after starting Trinity Hall’s first varsity basketball program in 2015.
“Being a new program, we really have to fight to create a reputation for ourselves, and I think we have by never giving up and always playing until the last whistle blows. I’m so proud of all that we have accomplished so far,” Ventura said.
Playing in arguably the toughest conference in New Jersey, the Monarchs have gained recognition for their efforts in several publications as they continue to fight head-to-head with No. 1 seeded teams. The Asbury Park Press dubbed them “the new kid on the block, [who’s] causing all sorts of trouble in the neighborhood,” as they received consideration for the publication’s preseason “Top 10” rankings.
“For girls basketball, the Shore Conference is one of the most competitive in the state so it’s tough, but game by game we are making a name for ourselves and establishing our position,” starting guard Loder said.
The Asbury Park Press also cited sophomore Caitlin Wingertzahn as a key newcomer for the team. Likewise, juniors Colleen Cusat and Grace Kenney, sophomore Colleen Kelly and freshmen Alexis Nerenberg and Emma Bradley contribute consistently to the varsity squad.
The team’s latest 73-26 victory over Henry Hudson on Jan. 27 pushed their impressive undefeated record to 15-0, proving that the Monarchs’ skills, which feature diversified shooters and aggressive press defenses, have vastly improved with every season, as reflected in their rapidly improving records (3-5 in 2015-16 and 18-8 last season). The Monarchs also won the Stuart Country Day Holiday Tournament in December.
This undeniable development, due in part to the fast and tactful guard Kwapniewski who leads the team in assists and steals, did not happen by chance; it is the result of hard work and talent.
Cusat, the leading-scorer from the perimeter for three-point shots, said, “We come into practice and we give each other 100 percent. We push each other to improve our game and to increase our chemistry on the court. All the effort we put into practice allows us to win the game no matter the competition.”
Meanwhile, team captain and forward Andree recently became the first Trinity Hall player in history to record an impressive 1,000 varsity career points (see separate article on Andree’s accomplishment). Leading the team by averaging almost 19 points and 9 rebounds per game, her experience and athletic prowess is paramount to the team’s success.
Just as the varsity team looks to make their impression on the Shore Conference, the junior varsity team looks to likewise make their mark this season as they boast a 6-2 record. Led by head coach Lauren Pappa, the JV team includes sophomores Riley Dunfee, Riley Francese, Sophia Gana and Alexa Sadowski, and freshmen Sarah Bilotta, Madison Marchetti, Hannah McCarthy and Cecilia Peters.
“So far, our JV season has gone well,” Peters said. “We played a challenging game against Mater Dei Prep that helped us figure out what we need to improve and work on. We are looking forward to the rest of the season and seeing what accomplishments our team can make.”