Expect the Upper Perk girls basketball program to be a work in progress for a while, even as the season taps off this weekend. Coach Pete Sovia will be looking to find the right combinations after losing four starters and other key contributors to graduation following a successful campaign last winter.
The Lady Indians are coming off a PAC-10 Final Four appearance for the first time since 1993-94 and a trip to the District I playoffs. The Tribe was led by Stacey Auckland (13 points per game) who became only the fifth girl to score 1,000 career points at Upper Perk.
But Auckland is gone as are fellow grads Danni Moser (All-Area Honorable Mention), Kim Kachmar, Rachael Keeney and Danielle Marinelli.
“We lost a great senior class,” Sovia said.
The veteran head coach does have some experience to call upon, including last year’s starting point guard Morgan Aldinger (3.8 ppg) and 6-foot forward Holly Crossin (6.5 ppg).
Additionally, the Tribe has several other players who saw some varsity time last season: Jess Spano, Holly Graber, Gina Moser, Gabi Marinelli and Aubrey Gibbs.
Graber and Gibbs join Aldinger and Crossin as the captains this year.
“The senior class is excellent,” Sovia said. “Morgan, Holly (Crossin), and Anna (Duemler) have provided excellent leadership along with the two junior captains.”
Duemler is returning to the program after focusing on field hockey the past couple of years.
Following the team’s first scrimmage with Christopher Dock last week, Sovia pronounced himself “cautiously optimistic.”
Aldinger is also encouraged. "We’re going to have to work, but I see good things in our future. We’ve been working together as a team, and the energy is up, and we’re positive.”
Crossin agreed. “Everyone is working hard, and we’re really playing as a team this year.”
The scrimmage brought into focus the team’s current strengths and weaknesses.
“I was mostly pleased with our aggressiveness on defense and our overall hustle,” Sovia noted. “We out-hustled them, and that’s sort of the trademark of the way this team’s going to need to play.
“But we have a lot of things to work on: we have to cut our turnovers down and get better handling of the ball in general.”
Aldinger is in sync with her coach. “We need to work on foul shooting, and just basic skills. We always want to make the homerun pass, but we have to learn how to make the easy pass and move the ball.”
Sovia will be in evaluation mode for some time as he searches for the right combinations. “This year, more than any year, I see the starting five changing depending upon the opponent and what we want to do defensively.”
The PAC-10 will be as difficult as usual with defending state champion Spring-Ford poised to defend its title. Methacton and Boyertown are also expected to be very good.
“The league’s tough. The league is very tough. The path to the state title comes through the PAC-10,” Sovia proclaimed.
Among the smaller schools, Sovia sees a wide-open and competitive race for the top two spots.
“We want to be as good, if not better, than last year,” he said of the Tribe. “That’s our goal.”
Crossin – who would like to play in college and has narrowed her preferences to Arcadia, Rochester and Stevens – is optimistic. “I think we have a really good opportunity to go far.”
Sovia, starting his sixth year at Upper Perk, was inducted into the Tri-County Hall of Fame in October in recognition of a stellar career at St. Pius in the 1970s. He also has coached at Emmaus.
“As for coaching, I really believe that the game of basketball is the ultimate team game, when it’s played correctly,” Sovia told The Mercury in September. “And to draw that out of young athletes is a challenge and quite rewarding when it goes well.”