There will be a new challenge for the Canfield girls basketball team in the 2011-2012 season.
The Lady Cardinals will now be fighting for a Division II state championship instead of battling with the usual Division I classification. That means the Cardinals should be playing their district round tournament games locally at Austintown Fitch High School. It remains to be seen if playing at a lower state level will make a difference to the Cardinals’ program, but the one thing that certainly will not change is the competition that Canfield has to compete with before that tournament even commences.
“Our schedule is again difficult,” said longtime Canfield head coach Pat Pavlansky via email. “(Playing in Division II) will be a major change for us, but our girls will play hard.”
With four letter winners returning to Canfield this winter, attacking a difficult schedule may not be as daunting as it could be. The only senior in that quartet is 5-foot, 10-inch forward Sarah Vrabel, but it doesn’t mean that Pavlansky is void of experienced players. Juniors Sabrina Mangapora and Abby Baker are both returning starters and should provide plenty of help on both offense and defense up front. The 6-foot, 1-inch Mangapora was a First Team All AAC selection last season at center. Another junior, Allison Pavlansky, played a ton of minutes over the past couple of seasons and should earn another letter this year thanks to the time she spends in Canfield’s front court.
“We have four letter winners returning who will contribute,” said coach Pavlansky. “We also have others who should contribute in their first year of varsity action.”
Three juniors, 5-feet, 11-inch Kayla Barko, Paige Baker and Kori McMurray should all lend a hand in the post and backcourt respectively. Sophomores Jamie Giambattista, Crissy Gelonese and Anna Luongo are all options at guards. Making their Canfield varsity debuts this year should be freshmen guards Lynnae Whitehead and Rachel Tinkey.
With so many options to choose from, Pavlansky has the makings of a very deep and nice sized squad. Defense should not be a problem with the bulk the Cardinals possess in the paint and with the shot blocking prowess of Mangapora. It’s when the Cardinals get the ball in their hands that pose the possible problems. That is why Pavlansky is placing a ton of importance on putting the pumpkin in the basket.
“Our season’s record will be determined by how well we shoot the basketball,” said Pavlansky bluntly.
One thing the coach need not worry about is getting his girls to work on any shortcomings in practice. As is the case with any of Pavlansky’s past outfits, this one is made up of a grand group of hard workers.
“They are great girls to coach,” said Pavlansky proudly.
Coach Pav’s team may be easy to coach, but their opponents will be tough to coach against. Competition in the All American Red Tier is tough with Howland, Poland and Struthers and the addition of Austintown Fitch adds fuel to some already combustible competition.
“Howland is definitely the best team in the league,” Pavlansky said honestly. “They have all of their starters coming back from a championship team. Struthers will be very good and Poland is much improved.”
Last March, the Cardinals somberly left the court in the Division I tournament after being trounced by undefeated Canton McKinley. Now with a switch to Division II maybe Canfield’s chances of cutting down the nets this spring have improved as well.