Claudia Guererri appreciates the work rate she has seen from her teammates at Fox Chapel girls basketball preseason practices.
It’s not hard for the Foxes to find a motivating force after a difficult season that included nine losses in the last dozen games, five of them by fewer than 10 points.
The slate is clean, and the Foxes are determined to put out a better showing.
Guererri, a senior guard, and forward Meg Friday are the team’s two returning starters. Foxes coach Jenn O’Shea is excited to see how they will lead a younger team this winter.
“They’re good teammates,” O’Shea said about Guererri and Friday. “They have positive attitudes, they work hard and they’re hoping to have a much better season. Last year was miserable at times. We weren’t happy with how it ended. They’ve been keeping everyone focused at practice.”
An area where the Foxes will see a welcomed boost in depth is at forward.
Senior Krystina Burdleski and freshman Ellie Schwartzman figure to factor in the Foxes inside game, and that’s a welcomed sight for Guererri, who likes to distribute the ball.
Other than Friday, the Foxes lacked inside depth last season on their way to a 9-13 record and a 2-8 mark in Section 2-6A.
“It’s nice to have tall players, because last year, outside of Megan, we really didn’t have any,” Guererri said. “I’m comfortable with Megan because she has a lot of good post moves, and we communicate well. Our post players are working hard to improve their moves, and it’s nice to have them down there when we’re getting pressured on the perimeter.”
Friday, a junior, is listed at 5-foot-11, Burdleski is 5-9, sophomore Grace Ritter is 5-8 and guard/forward Jess Paper is 5-8.
Guererri will mentor a young group of guards that includes her sister Gabby, a sophomore, Paper, and sophomore Claire Fenton.
“I just want to make sure to try and keep the team together when things aren’t going right,” Guerreri said. “We have a bunch of plays we can run, but when you go out there and play things can change. I just try to keep the team positive, try to stick to what the coaches want us to do and make sure everyone is giving a 100 percent effort.”
Fox Chapel lost two seniors who are playing in college in Gabby Badway (Le Moyne, N.Y.) and Bryanna Urso (Allegheny). Badway had a nagging high-ankle sprain injury that hampered her during Fox Chapel’s trying stretch run.
Hempfield and Penn Hills made the PIAA playoffs last year out of Section 2, and Penn Hills was a WPIAL semifinalist.
The Indians lost three-time all-state player Desiree Oliver, who is playing at Temple. Norwin and Penn-Trafford qualified for the WPIAL playoffs last year. Latrobe rounds out the section.
Fox Chapel will open at the North Hills tournament against Blackhawk on Dec. 8 and begin section play by hosting Hempfield Dec. 15.
“We learned last year that there are a lot of good players in our section,” Guererri said. “Every team has at least two guards or a couple forwards that are more than capable. It’s definitely a faster pace now that we are playing bigger schools (in Class 6A). We’ve learned what adjustments we need to make.”
The Foxes are ready to apply the lessons they have learned. They want to work in unison on both sides of the ball by getting better shots and better looks on the offensive end and playing close-out team defense on the other side of the court.
“We want to go out and play a lot harder than we did last year,” Guererri said. “At times we broke down, and we want to learn from that. The overall goal we want to achieve is to play as a team, not be selfish and try to go out and win games.”