Mt. Pleasant girls hope to benefit from experience this season

Thursday, December 3, 2020 | 1:21 PM

At the high school level it’s a rarity for a team to have its entire roster back from the previous season, but it’s a welcomed reality for longtime Mt. Pleasant girls basketball coach Scott Giacobbi.

The Vikings did not graduate anyone and bring back a group of five seniors and three juniors who saw significant playing time a season ago.

They went through some of the growing pains young teams often endureon their way to a 3-17 record, but the hope is that getting experience will lead to more success this winter.

“We struggled in the beginning last year, and I think that’s only natural when you’re an inexperienced group,” said Giacobbi, who is entering his 16th year with the Vikings. “It took until about midseason for us to become more competitive and to get things together. Now, moving into this year, there’s a seasoning there from playing that will continue. I think the girls have a good understanding of expectations and how we do business. That’s a strong positive for us.”

Twin sisters Kaycee and Kara Leech, Hannah Tate, Lexi Stanek and Haylie Brunson are the five returning seniors. Each of them saw starting time last year, along with juniors Hannah Gesinski, Alli Bailey and Tiffany Zelmore.

Giacobbi said his group has done a good job of being engaged, and all bring good energy, which will have heightened importance this year with guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic limiting spectators at games.

“They’ll all be leaders together. I don’t think there’s one girl on the floor that will play that sole role as a captain,” Giacobbi said. “You can see in practice already that each one of them brings a different leadership style, and it makes for a good collective approach from them all.”

As last season progressed, Giacobbi said the team became more cohesive on defense. That progression is expected to continue and become a catalyst to drive success on both sides of the floor.

“I think it’s always a good starting point to just be tough on defense and take some of those opportunities to create some good situations for offense,” Giacobbi said. “When we can, we want to play up tempo on both sides of the ball.”

The Vikings will not have too much change in section play. They are still in Section 3-4A and only lost two former section mates in Ringgold and McKeesport, which both moved up to Class 5A. Section 3-4A has one new opponent, Ligonier Valley, which moved from District 6 to the WPIAL.

Southmoreland, Yough, West Mifflin, Belle Vernon and Elizabeth Forward return for a geographically pleasing section that provides plenty of competition.

“Ligonier should be an interesting addition to the section,” Giacobbi said. “It’s pretty nice, because it’s just over the ridge from us. Then we have local neighbors Southmoreland and Yough, and moving down into the (Mon) Valley you have Elizabeth Forward and Belle Vernon. And West Mifflin is just a little bit north of us.

“It’s good to have familiarity with the teams in your section. That gives us a pretty tight-knit group within the coaching community, but there has been some turnover with some of the coaches within our section, so that will also bring a new energy.”

Mt. Pleasant girls basketball at a glance

Coach: Scott Giacobbi

Last year’s record: 3-17 (2-12 Section 3-4A)

Returning starters: Hannah Gesinski (Jr., G), Alli Bailey (Jr., G/F), Tiffany Zelmore (Jr., F), Haylie Brunson (Sr., F), Hannah Tate (Sr., G), Lexi Stanek (Sr., G), Kara Leech (Sr., G), Kaycee Leech (Sr., G)

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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