Fox Chapel girls look to leave injuries behind, compete in tough section

Friday, November 17, 2023 | 11:01 AM

The solitude of shooting basketballs with a machine in her family’s garage was a welcome environment for Fox Chapel senior guard Skylar Byrnes. Finding a way to push herself through workouts isn’t something Byrnes has struggled to find motivation to do.

It’s the culture with which she is familiar. Her parents own a gym — X Shadyside — and Byrnes always has enjoyed working out.

“I primarily worked out by myself,” Byrnes said about shooting 200 shots a day. “My parents own a gym, so I grew up in that environment where people were pushing themselves to do the best that they could. I didn’t want to hold anything back.”

The Fox Chapel girls basketball team is hoping Byrnes’ return can help the Foxes get over the hump this season. Fox Chapel finished last season 13-9 and was just outside the playoffs in a competitive section.

Byrnes was only able to play in three games last season. She suffered a broken ankle in the Foxes’ third game against Woodland Hills and was out for the rest of the season. Byrnes spent the offseason getting advice on how to avoid another ankle injury.

What she found was she should spend more time preparing to play.

“I worked with a sports performance trainer, and it helped me a lot,” Byrnes said. “I definitely need to stretch before games. I never used to stretch before. I used to go right into warmup.”

The Foxes again will play in Section 2-5A along with Armstrong, Hampton, Mars, New Castle, North Hills and Shaler. Fox Chapel slid out of the playoff chase last season after losing four consecutive section games in late January and February.

Coach Marty Matvey said Fox Chapel is in a good position to make a run at the playoffs.

“Our section was the tightest one in Class 5A,” Matvey said. “The teams all from one to six had a chance to get into the playoffs. What we are happy about is that this is the healthiest we have been as a program in five years.”

Isabella Barbour, Lyla Jablon, Natalia Schaffer, Bella Urso, Sarah Slember and Annalese Bartcolacci are returning from last season and will play key roles.

Taylor Stocker and Emily McKee are freshmen who will be asked to contribute. Matvey said having so many players back allows the Foxes to be creative with their lineups.

“We want everyone to have the next-great-play mentality,” Matvey said. “All the kids should feel empowered and confident enough to take the game-winning shot. From one through 18 on the roster, they should all be confident in themselves to make the next play.”

Byrnes is excited to get her chance to be back on the court.

“Last year was a year for me to watch and learn,” Byrnes said. “Being injured last year has made me a stronger person. My injury last year took me out for three months. I appreciate having the opportunity to work out and play basketball because it can all just go away.”

Fox Chapel girls at a glance

Coach: Marty Matvey

Last year’s record: 13-9, 6-6 in Section 2-5A

Key returners: Skylar Byrnes (Sr., F) , Isabella Barbour (Sr., F) , Lyla Jablon (So., G), Natalia Schaffer (Jr., F), Bella Urso (Jr., G), Sarah Slember (Sr., G), Annalese Bartcolacci (Sr., G)

Top newcomers: Taylor Stocker (Fr., G), Emily McKee (Fr., G)


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