Shady Side Academy girls basketball returns full roster from last season

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Saturday, December 5, 2020 | 11:18 AM


Not many WPIAL teams can boast about returning their entire roster.

The Shady Side Academy girls basketball team can, and coach Caroline Fitzgerald is excited to see what they can do this season.

With a young lineup last season, the girls took their bumps and bruises and limped to a 7-15 overall record, just one year after making the first WPIAL title game appearance in school history. Now, with everyone returning Fitzgerald believes that experience will pay off.

“We were composed of mostly ninth and 10th graders and had only two juniors,” Fitzgerald said.

“It was the first time that most of our players competed at the varsity level. I’m excited about the opportunity ahead of our team this season. All of our starters are returning, but the key difference this year is now we’re a team filled with players who have gained varsity experience. They now know what to expect in varsity play, and will be ready to compete right away.”

Senior Nyla Rozier will be at the front of the pack for Shady Side. The St. Francis (Pa.) commit was a starter and key contributor to the Shady Side team that made a run to the WPIAL title game two years ago. She scored 19.8 points per game last season.

Shady Side also returns fellow senior Erin Canning, along with juniors Natalie Stevens and Zion Jackson, who all contributed last season. Sophomores Antoinette Fitzgerald and Dre’Onna Lewis also could contribute.

Last season, Shady Side won five of its first six games but dropped nine of its final 10. Fitzgerald said, at times, she saw her players underestimate their abilities and it showed when they took the court. She is hoping she can empower them this season so they can reach new heights.

“Since they were a young team, at moments they struggled to have the confidence needed to successfully compete at the varsity level,” Fitzgerald said.

“My greatest wish for this team this year is that they feel self-assured and confident every single time they go out on the court. They are capable of so much, and my goal as their coach this season is to do everything I can to empower them and give them the tools they need to be confident and successful.”

Even though they hit a slump at the end of last season, Shady Side still showed promise throughout the season.

They competed with a tough Knoch team during their holiday tournament, took down Carlynton, which made a run to the WPIAL semifinals, and also found themselves in tight games at times throughout the year.

Shady Side Academy finished second to last in its section and only averaged 38 points while allowing 50.1. With the full roster returning, Fitzgerald said her team is eager to get back on the court.

“Our team is motivated and eager to play,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re proud of what we accomplished last season, but the team is excited to get back out there and see what we can do this year.”

Fitzgerald said interest is trending upward at Shady Side, and the program has 31 players between varsity and JV, including 20 freshmen or sophomores.

“As a coach, it’s exciting to have so many young players that are enthusiastic and eager to participate,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s great to know we have wonderful juniors and seniors that can mentor the younger players and lead by example.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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