Mt. Blue’s Lexi Mittelstadt (24) takes the ball down the court against Skowhegan in Farmington last season. (Tony Blasi/Sun Journal)
Three years ago, Dave Gerrish took over a Leavitt girls’ basketball team in transition.
After three years of tournament appearances, the Hornets are in transition again.
“We’re young again. We start kind of fresh,” Gerrish said. “We’ve got no seniors, some juniors, some sophomores and some freshmen. We’re just trying to get better every day.”
The Hornets would have even less varsity experience if not for the misfortune of having several of their players go down with severe injuries the last three years.
“A couple of our sophomores … (Kayleigh) Gilbert played a ton last year because of people getting hurt,” he said.
Last year, Gerrish already had Sophie Gilbert on the comeback trail from a torn ACL when he lost senior Elizabeth Goulette to a preseason knee injury. The addition of freshman Jayden Carpenter softened the blow from that injury before she went down in January with a torn ACL.
Carpenter’s return to start the season was tenuous as of the start of December. When she does return, she’ll rejoin junior guard Taylor White as two of the Hornets’ top scorers.
Sophomores Kayleigh Gilbert and Alison Noniewicz were pressed into action as freshmen in part due to injuries. The Hornets have a large freshman class at the ready again just in case.
“They’ve been working really hard just to be a team, just to play together. That’s always been our goal,” Gerrish said.
Leavitt’s schedule once again features Brunswick, which went undefeated in the KVAC last year, Gardiner and AA crossovers Oxford Hills and Lewiston. A return to Portland will take some rapid growth for a young team.
“We’ve just got to learn to compete at that level,” Gerrish said. “It takes a team.”
The Hornets will take not having to face defending champion Greely, which has knocked them out of the tournament each year of Gerrish’s tenure. The Rangers still have senior Anna DeWolfe, junior Brooke Obar, sophomore Camille Clement and virtually everyone who led them to the state title last year.
Mt. Blue girls’ basketball co-coaches Fred and Zac Conlogue might be playing with a stacked deck with nearly a dozen players with varsity experience on hand and seven seniors who can provide leadership to newcomers.
Junior guard and KVAC first-team selection Lexi Mittelstadt, who averaged 17 points per game last season, is back calling the shots in the backcourt.
But last season, the Cougars struggled and finished 4-14 in the KVAC.
“We will be focusing on defense and taking care of the ball and finishing at the hoop,” Fred Conlogue said. “We need to use our athletic ability and experience to wear down teams. If we stay united in our goals and strive to work hard, we should make the playoffs.”
The Cougars have their eyes set on a return to the postseason.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs. We want to improve offensively as we averaged about 36 points a game last year. We need to work harder on the defensive end to limit shots and finish our opportunities. We feel that we have made steady improvements and returning so many players, we feel we should be able to make the playoffs and strive to be playing our best ball for a tournament run.”