Injuries present early season speed bump for veteran Pine-Richland girls basketball team

Sunday, December 12, 2021 | 9:19 PM

As Pine-Richland girls basketball enters a new season, it has a bit of a good-news, bad-news situation.

The good news is the Rams have four returning starters, two other returners with experience and a couple of newcomers who will provide help.

The bad news is several of those players are injured and won’t be ready to begin the season.

All the injured players are expected to return, but the absences will leave the team a bit short-handed to start.

“There’s things you have control over and things you don’t and one of the things I don’t have control over is injuries,” Pine-Richland coach Kyle DeGregorio said. “We have a few kids hurt right now. We’ll get them all back, but they’ll be back at various times over the next few weeks. We’re not super deep, so that’s going to present some challenges early on.”

DeGregorio is entering his second season with the Rams. They went 7-11 in his first season and won a WPIAL Class 6A first-round playoff game against Peters Township before falling against Upper St. Clair in the quarterfinals.

The Rams were scheduled to open the season at the Moon Tournament with games against the host Tigers and Upper St. Clair.

Seniors Sophie Catalano, a Clemson volleyball recruit, Kaitlin Kerns and Giana Reighard and junior Sarah Pifer are the returning starters.

Junior MJ Laird and sophomore Madison Zavasky also saw significant minutes last year.

Christina Yarborough, a senior, came out for the team after not playing last year. She was a starter for the Rams as a freshman. Katie Pifer is a freshman who is slated to contribute off the bench.

Kaili Doctor, one of the Rams’ top scorers last year, is not playing this year. She’s focusing on playing volleyball.

“I’d be lying if I said we weren’t going to miss Kaili,” DeGregorio said. “She’s a great kid and a really good athlete. We all make decisions in life, and we respect hers to focus on volleyball. The goals we have don’t change if she was playing or not playing.”

When the Rams are healthy, they’ll feature some length. Laird is 6-foot-2, Catalano is 5-11, and Zavasky is 5-10.

DeGregorio said last year presented challenges with covid interruptions as he and his staff were going through their first season with the program, but by the end of the season, they were a better team. They’ve continued that growth throughout the offseason.

The injuries are another challenge as they try to navigate a difficult Section 1-6A.

North Allegheny, which has won five of the last six WPIAL championships and is the defending state champion, Norwin, Butler, Seneca Valley, Penn-Trafford, North Hills and Shaler are in Section 1 with the Rams.

“Our section is very good,” DeGregorio said. “Spencer (Stefko) does a great job with North Allegheny, and they are always loaded with talent. They continue to have a lot of college-capable players. Norwin is the same way. Then you look at everyone else. They are all well-coached. They work very hard and have kids committed to getting better. It makes for a lot of fun. I wouldn’t want to play in any other section because it is a test of your kids’ abilities and your abilities to be prepared every night.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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