Canfield's girls basketball team made an improbable run into the Sweet 16 of the Division II state tournament last year.
The Lady Cardinals upset the top two seeds, Ravenna and West Branch, on their way to that final 16 appearance. An encounter with then three-time defending state champion Hathaway Brown eventually put a stop to the Canfield's exciting climb up the tournament ladder, but with only one senior gone from last year's squad, the 2012-2013 version of the Lady Cardinals looks ready to pick up right where they left off last March.
"We have more depth in our lineup than in recent years," wrote veteran Canfield bench boss Pat Pavlansky in an email. "Hopefully that pays off down the road when the tournament begins in February."
Before Pavlansky's club can get to February it will have to navigate a nasty regular season schedule. Non-league encounters with West Branch, Warren Harding, Lakeview, Youngstown East, Marlington and Hickory should provide enough competition to keep Canfield tuned up for some rough Red Tier tussles.
"The league is very good," said Pavlansky about the All American Red. "Struthers, Howland and Fitch should be great competition. The Hickory (non-league) game will be played at Covelli Center so we're very excited about that."
Coach Pavlansky will also be excited when he gets to pencil all of the experienced players into his lineup each evening. The Cardinals will be made up of five spectacular seniors who all saw significant minutes and earned letters in the past. Leading that group will be the marvelous Sabrina Mangapora. The 6-foot, 1-inch Mangapora was Canfield's leader in almost every category a year ago and has made a name for herself in the area by downright dominating games at times.
What makes the Cardinals scary is that Mangapora has a group of mates who can also cause matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. Seniors Allison Pavlansky who stands 5-11, six-footer Kayla Barko, Abby Baker and Paige Baker will team with sophomore Rachel Tinkey to all play a major part in coach Pavlansky's game plan. Each one of those girls were a factor in last season's tournament when the Cardinals knocked off those two top-seeded teams and will put in extra time this year to make it even farther in the post season.
"The girls are working hard and it is a fun group to coach," Pavlansky said proudly. "We have had some very competitive practices."
Adding to that competition is a core of newcomers who will be very valuable off the bench. That quartet is made up of juniors Jamie Giambattista and Crissy Gelonese and sophomores Erin Risner and Lynnae Whitehead. All of those girls will provide the enormous depth that Pavlansky bragged about having, which has been an anomaly in Canfield in recent years. Having so many mainstays should enable Pavlansky's ladies to exceed expectations as much as they did last March.
"We always have the goal to win the league and district titles so that is the same this year," said Pavlansky.
That goal may not be very modest, but it is certainly reachable for this incredible clan of Cardinals.