Small roster doesn’t shrink expectations for Monessen girls

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Thursday, November 24, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Monessen girls basketball coach Janine Vertacnik has kept a close eye on how hard she is working with everyone. The Greyhounds don’t have a roster with a lot of room for a lot of flexibility.

Avoiding injuries and ailments will be important for a team trying to repeat last season’s success. The Greyhounds finished 17-7 and reached the first round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.

Monessen has nine players on the team this year, including five juniors and four freshmen.

“It’s hard for us to get practice in,” Vertacnik said. “We have six girls who were cheerleaders and two soccer players. We were able to get in the weight room and lift a lot. We wanted to try and stay in shape as best we could.”

Monessen’s major challenge will be replacing the production of Mercedes Majors, who averaged more than 20 points.

One player who will step in is freshman point guard Madison Johnson. Vertacnik said the Greyhounds will benefit from having Madison, who is the younger sister of Monessen starter Hailey Johnson, in the lineup.

“She ran the middle school team last year, and they finished 8-1,” Vertacnik said. “She has played AAU since third or fourth grade. She needs to adjust to the speed and physicality of the high school game.”

Avanti Stitch and Sidney Campbell are the other returning starters for the Greyhounds. While Monessen doesn’t have a lot of players on the roster, Vertacnik said the players she does have provide versatility. They have a decent number of taller players who can do different things.

“We have the ability to go five guards and speed things up or press,” Vertacnik said. “Depending on the team we are playing, we also have girls that are 5-foot-8, 5-9 that can play big.”

Monessen is in Section 2-A this season. The Greyhounds will be competing with Avella, Geibel Catholic, Jefferson-Morgan, Mapletown and West Greene for a section crown.

Vertacnik believes with Monessen’s smaller roster, the Greyhounds will need to focus more on stopping their opponents than scoring themselves.

“We need to dig in on defense and play well in transition,” Vertacnik said. “We may have struggles on offense. We need to keep the scores low and play good defense.”

At a glance

Coach: Janine Vertacnik

Last year’s record: 17-7 overall (8-2 Section 2-A)

Returning starters: Avanti Stitch (Jr., forward), Sidney Campbell (Jr., guard), Hailey Johnson (Jr., guard/forward)

Top newcomers: Madison Johnson (Fr., guard)

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