Full schedule breeds enthusiasm inside Cheswick Christian girls basketball program

Wednesday, November 24, 2021 | 2:13 PM

After a covid-shortened 2020-21 season in which the Cheswick Christian girls basketball team played only nine games, signs are pointing towards a return to a more normal slate this winter.

That’s a welcomed proposition for Chargers coach Jacque Willis and her team.

Cheswick Christian returns three starters from last year’s team that went 5-4 and is hopeful to be in the mix in the Southwest Christian Athletic Conference.

“It’s great for the girls to kind of have a sense of normalcy,” said Willis, who is entering her third year as the Chargers coach. “We’re more mindful of different things in the world now, but it’s good for them to have a season with more games and get to do more things as a team and go to different places together. That’s really awesome for them. The girls have a real hopeful and cheerful attitude coming into the season.”

Willis said the team has 18 games on its schedule as some teams in the SWCAC have returned to play after opting to take last year off due to the pandemic. The Chargers open the season with a nonconference scrimmage Dec. 2 against Trinity Christian and begin SWCAC play two days later against Plants and Pillars.

Seniors Olivia Rochind and Abby Zuback and junior Bella Cullaj are the returning starters.

Daisy Hamilton and Nina Rasulova were starters from last year’s team who graduated.

Senior Daylin Rivera and sophomore Ally Szarmowski will slide into their spots in the starting lineup.

Rochind and Zuback are the team captains.

“The girls look to Olivia as a leader on the court because she’s so talented,” Willis said. “Abby is so good with helping the younger girls. She’s not a loud captain, but she’s a vocal captain. She tells the girls how to do things in the best way possible. She’s not going to be screaming at them.

“It’s a healthy balance. Olivia is much more lead by example and Abby is a lead with words kind of girl. The dynamic between the two of them is really good.”

Mei Clay, a sophomore guard/forward, is the first person off the bench. She’ll be counted upon for her defensive prowess.

“She brings a great spark off the bench,” Willis said. “When we need those extra legs on defense to run our press, she’ll have fresh legs and she’ll be tenacious on defense. She’s fast and she doesn’t let up.”

Tenacity is a facet of the attitude the Chargers have adopted stylistically. They want to run the floor and try to cause havoc for their opponents.

“I always tell the girls that we’re the team that never quits,” Willis said. “They have shirts that say that. When it comes to style, we want to be the team that runs up and down the court. I like to press and get fast-break points. At the same time, it’s good to have a healthy balance where you can execute half-court sets because some teams won’t let you run.”

Cheswick Christian girls at a glance

Coach: Jacque Willis

Last year’s record: 5-4

Returning starters: Olivia Rochind (Sr., F), Abby Zuback (Sr., G), Bella Cullaj (Jr., G)

Top newcomers: Daylin Rivera (Sr., F), Ally Szramowski (So., G), Mei Clay (So., G/F)

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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