Former assistant coach Barrett set to guide Seton LaSalle girls

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Sunday, December 3, 2017 | 2:54 PM


Ian Barrett has served his coaching apprenticeship.

An assistant in recent years at Seton LaSalle (2012-13), Oakland Catholic (2012-13) and Keystone Oaks (2014-16), Barrett is in charge of the girls basketball program at Seton LaSalle this season.

“This is my first year as a head coach at the high school level,” Barrett said. “We are extremely excited to start the year. Since we started open gyms in May, we have already made vast improvements. The team is working really hard. We've had a great turnout all summer, and have been doing a lot of conditioning.

“We don't have a starting lineup at this time. Everything is brand new. The coaches are learning the players and vice versa.”

Barrett, whose assistants are Mark Bernotas and Alexa Xenakis, said the Rebels' focus in the preseason has been on “drills, drills, and more drills.”

He added, “We've been breaking it down and building it back up with the fundamentals.”

There are five returning letter winners on this year's Rebels team, consisting of senior guards Layni Ziegler and Tori Hudson, who is out with an ACL injury; and sophomore guards Alyssa Pollice (G/F), Deanna Bennett and Chloe Lestitian.

Ziegler, Pollice and Bennett are returning starters.

“As a team, we are setting our expectations high and plan to be a strong competitor in the section,” Ziegler said. “After that, we plan on making a run in the playoffs, going in as the underdogs. As a whole, we are fast and play with a lot of energy and physicality.

“Every year has been a new challenge for us, but our mindset has been optimistic. The new coaching staff has high expectations for us, and they push us to our fullest potential. I believe they will be a key asset to our success this season.”

Ziegler has a 4.3 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society, student council, student affairs council and the retreat leader team, and is also involved in her church and community activities. She has hopes to continue her basketball career in college, but is undecided on her college selection.

“I participate in a variety of volunteer activities through my church, and I am also a member of the youth group,” said Ziegler, who has been playing the piano for eight years. “My academics and athletics take up a majority of my time, but I do enjoy babysitting and hanging out with my friends in my free time.”

Ziegler is a third-year varsity starter, second-year team captain and fourth-year letter winner. She was a first-team all-section selection last season, averaging 14 points, 3.4 assists and 2.6 steals.

“The girls basketball program at Seton LaSalle has brought me a lot of great opportunities,” Ziegler said, “and I have created lifelong relationships with my past teammates and coaches. I wouldn't change anything about the past four years, and I believe that I owe my school a lot of credit for that.”

Other players looking to make an impact for the Rebels this season include seniors Bailey Matrascia, a guard/forward, and Bridget Hart, a center/forward; junior guard/forward Savanna Carr; sophomore guard/forwards Vanessa Hudson and Sarah Merlina, and sophomore forward Ava Barrett, the coach's daughter.

“We have two pleasant surprises with the additions of Bailey Matrascia and Bridget Hart,” coach Barrett said. “Bridget did not play as a junior. We also have a nice incoming freshman class, and a large sophomore class with a lot of talent.”

Leading freshman prospects include guards Sydney Carr, Emma Walsh and Izzy Psillidis; center/forwards Dynasty Shegog, Abby Marzina and Meghan Dryburgh; and forward Emily Lupanacci.

Ian Barrett is a 1991 Seton LaSalle graduate who manned the point guard position for the Rebels' two WPIAL runner-up teams in 1990 and 1991. He has been a deputy with the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office for 16 years, and a detective since 2006.

Bernotas, also a 1991 Seton LaSalle grad, was Barrett's teammate in high school. Bernotas was a starter in his sophomore year in 1989 when the Rebels, led by Kevin Salvadori, won the WPIAL championship.

Coach Barrett's one-word characterization of this year's girls team at Seton is “feisty.”

He noted, “We have a lot of girls that can't wait to get after it. As a coaching staff, we can't wait to let them off of the chain.”

Seton LaSalle, previously coached by Whitney Jones, qualified for the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs last season as the fourth-place team in Section 3. The Rebels ended up 5-16 overall following a 51-50 loss to Charleroi in the WPIAL first round.

Bishop Canevin won the section title in 2016-17 with a 12-0 record, and was followed by Carlynton (10-2), Avonworth (7-5) and Seton LaSalle (5-7). Shady Side Academy (4-8), Apollo-Ridge (2-10) and Steel Valley (2-10) rounded out the standings.

Bishop Canevin, a two-time defending WPIAL champion, was a PIAA finalist last season. Carlynton also advanced in both the WPIAL and PIAA playoffs.

“Bishop Canevin has to be considered the frontrunner in all of 3A,” coach Barrett said. “Avonworth has just about all of their starters returning, and with the three Robinson sisters, they always have a fighting chance.

“And don't sleep on Shady Side Academy. With sophomore guard Catherine Jewart and the addition of transfer guard Ari Goitz from Pine-Richland, they have to be in the discussion.”

The Rebels will kick off the 2017-18 season in the Ambridge tournament, where they will play Dec. 8-9 against Cornell and Quigley Catholic, respectively.

Seton LaSalle's first home game will take place Dec. 11 against McNeilly Road rival Keystone Oaks. The Rebels' first section test will be Dec. 14 at Steel Valley.

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.

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