Girls return entire starting lineup
Last season, the Northwestern girls team featured a senior class of one: Paige Stitzel. The result was a lot of younger players getting opportunities for quality minutes, giving the Lady Tigers plenty of experience coming into the 2017-2018 season.
After having that one-player senior class last year, head coach Chris Deutsch has six seniors on this year’s roster. The experience of the seniors and the development of the underclassmen from last season are good, but adding a couple of impressive freshmen to this year’s team gives depth and offers Deutsch plenty of options.
“It was so valuable last year to put them in that environment where now they know what to expect,” he said. “It’s encouraging. There are some freshmen this year who are really going to challenge the older girls with their abilities, so we’re very fortunate.”
Last season was far from being a rebuild. Northwestern went 13-5 in the Colonial League and 16-9 overall, reaching the semifinals in both the league and district tournaments. The rest of the league should take note that Deutsch believes his players are further ahead this season than they were at this point last year and he’s seeing constant progress.
In most games, Deutsch will start at least four of his seniors and isn’t ruling out the possibility that they’ll have an all senior starting lineup for some games. Because the team has a lot of interchangeable parts, Deutsch is going to use that to his advantage to put together a starting five that he feels will best matchup with the particular opponent on any given night.
Leighanna Lister averaged 12 points per game last season to lead the team and is one of the six returning seniors on the roster. Junior Sage Christopher started last season and figures to be getting a lot of playing time again this season. Sophomore Sydney Sevrain got playing time off the bench last season and will see that time increase for the Lady Tigers this year.
“Sage Christopher is a junior this season and she started for us last year as a sophomore, so she’ll be getting a lot of playing time for us this year,” said Deutsch. “Sydney Sevrain is only going to be a sophomore this year, but she was one of the first two girls off the bench last year as a freshman, so she’ll get a lot of playing time, too. We can go maybe eight or nine deep”
The offense should be stronger this season than it was last year, but scoring can be streaky at times and there are always going to be those nights when the shots just aren’t falling. With a constant emphasis on defense, Northwestern has the ability to be a cohesive defensive team and can generate some offense off of pressure defense.
“We start practice with defense and we focus a lot on that, because I always think that gives us an opportunity to keep ourselves in the game,” he said. “We’ve stressed an aggressive type of defense, maybe a full-court pressure defense and we’ll change our defenses up. We will be aggressive and physical defensively and that’s the way we play.
“When we’re really pressuring and getting turnovers, we get offense off of that and that’s how we’ve got to play. Transition wise, we’re going to push the ball. We’re not going to be walking the ball up the court. We’re going to be looking to go and push the ball.”
The Tigers open with games against Eastern Pennsylvania Conference opponents, playing at Whitehall Friday night and then hosting Allen Saturday. Their first Colonial League game comes Tuesday at Palisades.
“Our girls are very athletic and quick and we’ve got versatility with girls who can play multiple positions,” Deutsch said. “For us to get over the hump, when we play better teams, we’re going to need to score more consistently. That’s going to be a key for us. If we get balanced scoring, that can take us to the next level.”