Bishop Canevin, Chartiers Valley, Carlynton girls teams have high expectations
Tim McConnell is in his 26th season coaching basketball at Chartiers Valley — just not on the same sideline where he was for the past 25. McConnell, who won six WPIAL boys titles, begins his first season coaching the girls team, of which his daughter, Megan, is a member.
The Carlynton girls also are under a new coach, Darian Robins, who is undertaking his first high school head-coaching job after several years coaching AAU teams.
That makes Bishop Canevin’s Scott Dibble the dean of area girls coaches as he enters his second season. What is new for the Crusaders, three-time defending WPIAL champions, is a drop to Class 2A.
Here is a closer look at the teams:
As if the Crusaders needed any help to win WPIAL titles, now they will try to do so in a smaller classification. They will play in Section 3-2A with Bentworth, Burgettstown, Carmichaels, Chartiers-Houston, Frazier and Fort Cherry.
“I don’t really know these teams,” Dibble said, “but we’re going to do what we do and prepare the same way.”
Dibble’s team might be an unwelcome guest at its new foes’ homes. The Crusaders will bring two Division I players: senior Shamyjha Price and freshman Emma Theodorsson.
Price, who has signed with UMass Lowell, is looking for her fourth WPIAL title, which would one-up her father, Kevin, who played on three WPIAL championship teams at Duquesne High School.
“This girl hates to lose,” Dibble said. “I told her, ‘I know you’ve accomplished a lot, but there’s still more to do.’ She still has a chip on her shoulder from (losing) last year’s state championship.”
Theodorsson is a 6-footer who, Dibble said, already has Division I offers.
“She’s special,” Dibble said. “You’re going to be hearing a lot about her over the next couple of years.”
But the Crusaders have far more. Point guard Diajha Allen returns, along with 3-point specialist Gillan Gustine and super-sub Danielle Deasy.
Another new player, Alyssa Pollice, who transferred from Seton LaSalle, likely will be in the starting lineup.
For all the team has accomplished, a state title remains elusive, but the Crusaders aim to rectify that.
“We have to one-up (ourselves),” Dibble said. “Every single year, the goals will never change: section title, WPIAL title, state title. We’re always looking for the trifecta.”
The Cougars welcome back one of their own. Robins attended Carlynton schools through ninth grade before transferring to Linsly School in West Virginia.
His first order of business was to establish stability. He is the program’s third coach in three years.
“I think the biggest thing was just getting some continuity,” he said. “I thought they were a little disjointed, so I wanted to make sure they felt a sense of community. There’s a marked difference already in their attitude and sense of pride.”
The Cougars suffered through a 1-11 showing in Section 3-3A, but they return all five starters. Jada Lee and Angelica Diallo, whom Robins calls Division I-caliber talents, lead the way.
The other returning starters are center Haley Williams and guards Jaelyn Melko and Amanda Masdea. They will lead the Cougars against new competition, as Section 3-3A has been shuffled to comprise Deer Lakes, Derry, East Allegheny, Shady Side Academy, South Allegheny, Steel Valley and Valley.
Robins said, unabashedly, he wants to contend for the section title.
“It’s lofty, but, at the same time, I think it’s well within their grasp provided they play how they are supposed to,” he said.
After a quarter century coaching boys, McConnell welcomed the change to coach the girls team. Having his daughter on the team didn’t hurt.
McConnell said he will place the same demands on the girls that he placed on his boys teams, though the sometimes-fiery coach said he needs to rein in his emotions at times.
“I definitely can coach them with the same expectations,” he said, “but … you have to tone it down a little bit.”
The Colts are two years removed from a WPIAL Class 5A title and return a strong cast to make a run at another. Besides Megan McConnell, Loyola (Md.) commit Mackenzie Wagner returns, along with senior post player Gabby Legister and Alex Ferrella.
Legister missed all of last season with a torn ACL, and her presence down low should open up opportunities for McConnell and Wagner on the outside.
“She’s getting better and better every day,” Tim McConnell said. “I like how she is working and how she is listening.”
McConnell isn’t concerned with his team’s ability to score. Keeping the opponent from scoring, he said, will determine how far the Colts can go.
“If you want to be really good, you have to play defense and stop people,” he said. “You can’t just outscore them.”
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at [email protected] or via Twitter @CCurti_Trib.