Shady Side girls look to reload after losing coach, 4 starters

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Sunday, December 15, 2019 | 11:48 AM


The Shady Side Academy girls basketball team is coming off a banner season.

The Indians finished with a 13-1 record in section play and, for the first time in school history, made it to the WPIAL finals, where they lost to top-seeded Neshannock. The Indians fell to Central Cambria in the second round of the PIAA playoffs to finish 20-5.

Gone from that team are four starters: Ariana Goitz, Catherine Jewart, Emmie Lau and Ella Benec.

Jewart is playing basketball at Mount Union, and Goitz is playing at Dickinson.

The Indians also had to find a replacement for coach Amy Szlachetka, who resigned after the season.

Caroline Fitzgerald is the new coach, and she is not planning any major changes in the style of play.

“The Shady Side Academy girls basketball program has a history of being strong when it comes to both defensive and offensive fundamentals,” Fitzgerald said. “Coach Szlachetka is leaving behind a legacy of defensive excellence and smart offensive execution, and we will work to keep those traditions alive in this program this year and for many years to come.”

Junior Nyla Rozier, a 5-foot-11 guard, is the lone returning starter.

“She was one of the top scorers and key contributors last year,” Fitzgerald said.

Letterwinners returning are junior Erin Canning, a 5-7 forward, and sophomores Natalie Stevens, a 5-10 forward, and Zion Jackson, a 5-7 guard. A promising newcomer is sophomore Jasmine DeBruce, a 5-4 guard.

Fitzgerald said the team’s work ethic will be one of its strengths.

“What this team lacks in experience, they make up for with their hard work,” she said. “They are athletic, smart and have incredibly positive attitudes. They also had the opportunity to learn from and play with a tremendous class of seniors last season, who were great role models for them on and off the court. They learned what they have to accomplish every day in practice and in games in order to have a successful season, so they know what needs to be done in order to compete at the highest level.”

She admits to having some concerns about the inexperience.

“We have a very young team, so this will be the first time many of our players will get significant minutes in varsity competition,” Fitzgerald said. “There is always a transition that happens when players move up from JV to varsity. They will have to adjust quickly to the speed and pace of the game.”

SSA will be competing in Section 3-3A along with Steel Valley, Carlynton, Deer Lakes, Valley, South Allegheny, Derry and East Allegheny. Fitzgerald feels the strongest section competition will come from Carlynton, Deer Lakes and East Allegheny.

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