New-look Burrell girls optimistic for upcoming season

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017 | 6:24 PM


A recent open gym at Burrell featured the next generation of the girls basketball program, with about two dozen players — many junior high-aged — competing against each other in a loop of games.

The most recent generation was on display, too, with the banners and trophy cases in and around the gym showcasing the Bucs' success over the past half-decade.

But what of the current group? That's the million-dollar question.

After a six-year period of consecutive WPIAL playoff appearances, including a WPIAL runner-up finish and four straight PIAA playoff trips, Burrell begins the season with more uncertainty than unusual, with a new coach and several players who will need to take over bigger roles to make this generation a success, as well.

“We're going to try our best to make playoffs and just see where we go from there,” senior Brittany Dunn said. “The amount of people we have, we all just need to put 110 percent effort towards everything.”

Burrell's new coach shares a first name with former coach Meghan Ziemianski, who led the Bucs to 123 wins in six seasons before stepping down, and hopes to share in the same kind of success.

“I think there's a lot of potential,” said Meaghan Volek, a former player at Kittanning now in her first head coaching job. “We have a quote of the day, and the quote of the day for our first practice (was) ‘the beginning is a very important part of the work.' So we need all those girls to come in and be ready to start off on the right foot, buy into what we're teaching (and know) success is there for them if they want it.”

A slow start caused problems for Burrell last season. The Bucs began 1-9, and though they recovered to make the playoffs, they fell to South Park in the first round.

In her days at Kittanning, Volek played in the post and described her game as “hustle and heart” — setting screens and scoring inside on offense and playing aggressively on defense. She remembers the Wildcats' games against Burrell as scrappy affairs and wants to instill the same mindset with her current team.

“One hundred percent, I would love to be an aggressive, defense-driven type of team, going after loose balls, effort and heart 100 percent of the time,” she said.

The Bucs lost three seniors who contributed heavily to the run of recent success in Eliza Oswalt (Mercyhurst), Brooke Smith (Allegheny) and Nicole Kristof. Added to other recent graduates Sydney Bordonaro (Pepperdine) and Natalie Myers (Youngstown State), Burrell has lost an immense amount of talent in recent years.

“That was a great senior class for Burrell,” Volek said. “I'm really looking forward to the senior leadership I have this year.”

That leadership belongs to Dunn, Burrell's leading returning scorer who can play inside and outside, plus a pair of other seniors who hope to take on greater roles this season in Faith Remich and Haley Matter.

Juniors Grace Omecinski and Kaylen Sharrow took on bigger roles last season, as did sophomore Maia Ferra, especially after Kristof suffered a season-ending injury early in the year, and Volek expects them to bring rebounding and scrappiness.

Burrell again will compete in Section 1-4A with Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, Deer Lakes, Freeport, Highlands, Knoch and Valley and will open the season Dec. 8 at the St. Joseph tip-off tournament.

“I know that everybody, all the starting five have potential,” Dunn said. “If we all just put it together, then there's no doubt we should be able to make playoffs. We just really need everybody's heads to be in the game and really be focused this year.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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