During the 2009-2010 basketball season, first-year Fitch girls head coach Stacie Cepin was able to start implementing her style into the program.
Entering her second season this year, Cepin is now ready to make an impactful imprint. One reason why Cepin thinks year two of her reign will be successful is because of the amount of talented athletes she has on her roster.
“Depth is one of our strengths,” Cepin said in a phone conversation last week. “We are able to bring a lot of kids in. That will help us a lot in practice. We want to run and our conditioning has been better.”
The Fitch girls better be well conditioned especially when the ball is not in their hands. It will be on defense where Cepin believes her squad must take advantage of the speed it possesses.
“We want to go at people and wear them out,” Cepin explained. “When our defense steps up our offense becomes much better. It’s amazing when we play great defense.”
Leading that defensive charge will be a group of about seven players who Cepin will use in her rotation. It was unknown at press time how Cepin’s starting lineup will look in the season opener at West Branch on Nov. 27, but the coach wasn’t too worried about it when pressed to name one.
“We are still trying to figure out a lineup,” she said casually. “It may take another week to figure it out. All five returning players will get a chance to start.”
Three of those returnees are seniors who the coach and the rest of the team will rely heavily on for leadership as well as offense and defense. That trio of twelfth-graders is Marissa Mattozzi, Erica Braxton and Mariah Snowden. Mattozzi was one of the better Falcons offensively last season. Braxton is a five-foot, 111-inch force underneath and Snowden is a very athletic five-foot, eight-inch frontcourt player.
“The seniors have really taken command of the team,” Cepin said proudly. “The whole attitude of the team has been better. If we follow the leadership of our seniors we will do well.”
Alexa Lynn and Anissa Hill are two other returning Falcons who played excellently last season and are hoping to log important minutes throughout 2010-2011.
Fitch also has a pair of underclass girls who look to add punch to the Falcons at some point this year. Sophomore Brenda Thompson is a guard who Cepin believes will bring tenacity to the team’s defense.
“(Thompson) is a good at the point (guard) and at defense,” the coach mentioned. “She played a lot of JV last year. She will be nice to have off the bench.”
It will also be nice for Cepin to turn to freshman Megan Sefcik for relief at the two or the three spot.
“(Sefcik) is one of those kids who is a gym rat,” Cepin said admiringly. “She was part of the 17-0 junior high team. She is even a better person than she is a player. She is a leader.”
The Fitch team was more follower than leader in 2009-2010. The Falcons only won five games in Cepin’s initial season and finished at the bottom of the Federal League standings. This year will mark the Lady Falcons’ final one in the conference and Cepin can think of no better way to say goodbye than with a few upsets.
“Our last year in the Federal we want to make a statement,” said the coach emphatically. “We have put in more of what we want to do so the adjustment period is over. We feel more comfortable (against league opponents) this year.”
That comfort level may end quickly because the Falcons play their first conference tilt at Massillon Jackson just three games into the schedule. Jackson may not be one of the most powerful teams in the Federal, but coach Cepin certainly knows which teams are.
“Canton McKinley is really good again,” said Cepin about the team that knocked Fitch out of the state tournament last winter. “Boardman is really good as well.”
A lot of the rest of the Federal League will have a different look to it this year making Cepin feel as if she is a veteran coach in just her second season.
“Four teams have new coaches,” said Cepin, “but it is always a tough schedule (inside the Federal) no matter what.”
Of course, Cepin and her girls know a lot about toughing it out over the course of a campaign and that is exactly what these Lady Falcons plan on doing again this winter. As opening night quickly approaches, the coach is like a girl on Christmas Eve.
“I’m excited to start because we are ready mentally,” Cepin shouted.