Best on the Shoreline!
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Senior captain guard Catie Donadio and the Moran girls’ basketball squad turned in an 18-win season last year, and in 2021, they hope to make a run at the Shoreline Conference Championship. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore guard Caeley Ayer hit the scene with a bang for the Huskies last season, and she is poised to continue her upward trajectory in 2021 as one of Morgan’s top guards. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Senior Alex Kelly will play significant minutes patrolling the paint and cleaning the glass for the Huskies. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
The Morgan girls’ basketball team looks to continue to build on the successes of last year’s stellar campaign. The Huskies notched an 18-5 overall record, played in the Shoreline Conference Tournament final, and picked up a win in the Class M State Tournament last season.
In 2021, Head Coach Caitlin Woods’s squad has high hopes as it returns plenty of contributors from that 18-win team.
Coach Woods knows that while some of her top players are returning for another season, the Huskies also need to replace the production of some integral graduated seniors.
“Last year was certainly a successful year. We’ve lost three starters, and we have a lot to make up for losing Leah McComiskey,” said Woods. “A lot of the focus right now is trying to finding the right group that’s going to get onto the court.”
Still, there is plenty for the Huskies to be excited about. Morgan has a solid core of players returning as well as good depth in young, up-and-coming players on the roster. While all state tournaments have been canceled this year due to COVID-19, Morgan aspires to be one of the last teams standing in the Shoreline Conference Tournament.
“We have a good balance. It may mean some of the younger kids won’t get to play JV because they will be on the varsity bench,” Woods said. “We don’t have a freshmen team, but we have a lot of freshmen. Some of those freshmen can get on the varsity bench and maybe even get significant varsity time. So far, I’m very impressed with some of our young talent. I think it’s realistic for our team with the talent that we have to set our expectations really high.”
Luckily, Morgan has retained the services of senior captain point guard Catie Donadio, who earned All-Shoreline Conference First Team, All-State, and New Haven Register All-Area honors last season. Coach Woods knows that her team runs really well with Donadio making decisions with the ball in her hands, but the Huskies are hoping for more versatility this season.
“Catie Donadio was arguably the best player in the Shoreline Conference last year, and she’ll continue that path this year,” Woods said. “This will be her second year as a captain, and she’s a scholar athlete. She’s our point guard that we depend on the most. We know that teams will double up on her a lot, and we have to be prepared for that.”
Morgan’s other lone senior is Alex Kelly, who is a strong player with a height advantage over many other Shoreline Conference opponents. Coach Woods expects Kelly to have a strong impact on the Huskies again this season.
“Alex Kelly was instrumental in winning some big games for us last year. It helps that she’s 6-foot. She played so much last year, even when coming off the bench,” Woods said. “She’s a center, and she’ll be returning in the same role. In practice she’s already blocking shots left and right. She’s stronger and more confident than ever.”
Coach Woods expects that the Huskies will see solid contributions from junior perimeter player Ava Zirlis.
“Ava’s sort of our go-to junior. She’s familiar with the program, in and out, and her knowledge and understanding of our system and what we look for on a possession is so valuable,” said Coach Woods. “She has a pretty good outside shot, and we’ll see what she can bring to the varsity program.”
Sophomore Caeley Ayer had a breakout season as a freshman last year and received All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention for her efforts. This year, Coach Woods hopes that the sophomore guard can be another ball handler to take pressure off of Donadio.
“Caeley will definitely start, not to reveal too much, but I think she will be one of the stars of the Shoreline this year and in the future,” said Woods. “She’s even better than last year, and she was already great. She can even move to the three if we need. She’s so dynamic, we can move her to multiple places, but she can help out Catie in terms of handling the ball.”
Also providing some depth in and around the paint are two other sophomores in Katie Martin and Sofie Passante. While they can both play big around the post, they offer different looks for opposing defenses.
“Katie started last year, and she can play anywhere on the court. Last year, she started in a power forward-type position, but she can shoot and post up. She’s showing that she can do more and more all the time. She uses her height, strength, and body well. She welcomes contact, and she uses contact to her advantage,” Woods said. “Sofie’s not super tall, but she plays like she is. She’ll be extremely helpful for our team this year. She draws contact too, and she plays well in the post. She also knows the program pretty well.”
Given the COVID-19 complications that are altering the schedule and formats of the season, Coach Woods still feels that the Huskies are poised to compete among the best in the Shoreline Conference. The younger student athletes on her squad are taking both the COVID guidelines and basketball instruction seriously, and that bodes well for Morgan.
“I think that we have a solid first group, and I think even though we have a lot of younger kids on the varsity bench, we will be able to sub more. That hasn’t been the trend. We normally went five starters and two off the bench. I think with more kids returning, there will be a bigger rotation. We have some new kids who will be able to hold their own,” Woods said. “We want to keep improving the program. We’re emphasizing defense and making sure we’re working harder and harder at that all the time.”
Coach Woods just feels grateful for the opportunity to be back on the court coaching her student-athletes again. Coach Woods is especially excited to see Donadio get to finish out her career at Morgan with a senior campaign.
“I’m thrilled to be back. I’m obsessed with basketball and this program,” said Woods. “I love all these kids, but to see Catie able to finish out her high school career is extremely meaningful to me as a coach and to her as a player. This is special.”