Junior quartet set to lead Riverview girls basketball |

Junior quartet set to lead Riverview girls basketball

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Riverview’s Francesca Lio works out during practice Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, in the high school gym.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Riverview’s Sydney McDonough (right) works against Francesca Lio during practice Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, in the high school gym.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Riverview’s Sydney McDonough works out during practice Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, in the high school gym.

Riverview coach Keith Stitt and the Raiders enter the season with a lot of optimism, and for good reason. The Raiders return four starters who are all juniors, so it’s safe to say experience won’t be an issue.

The Raiders finished last season 11-11 overall and 7-7 in Section 2-2A play. They advanced to the WPIAL playoffs, but lost a close game to Serra Catholic by one point on a half-court buzzer-beater.

“I think we can compete,” Stitt said. “I’ll be disappointed if we’re not in the playoffs. That’s always my goal with all the teams. If you get there, anything can happen.

“Fortunately, we have been able to have some success throughout the years. We always set out the season with the No. 1 goal of making the playoffs, and from there you want to do some damage in the playoffs.”

Junior guard Sydney McDonough spearheads the returning starters. She is joined by junior guard Alyssa Cappa, junior guard/forward Francesca Lio and junior forward Alivia Schulties.

Stitt is looking for big things this year from McDonough, whom he described as a good scorer and ball-handler.

“She’s the point guard, and she makes us go,” Stitt said. “We rely a lot on her and her ability. She’s a really good passer and sees the floor exceptionally well, and makes some spectacular passes, at times.”

Cappa is also a good scorer, according to Stitt. She will be tasked with taking some of the ball-handling pressure off McDonough when teams are keying on her.

Lio was one of the leading rebounders for Stitt last season and will be relied upon on the glass again this season.

Schulties is the leader of the defense, a role she will retain this year.

“She’s a solid rebounder and a good defender,” Stitt said. “She’s our biggest and strongest girl. She’s really athletic and runs well. She’s going to have to be the centerpiece for our defense. If she doesn’t get the rebound, she’s making sure the other team doesn’t.”

Rounding out the starting five will be junior forward Annie Betler, who battled injuries the last couple of seasons. She will have a significant impact this season, Stitt said.

Freshman guard Olivia Watts also is expected to see a fair amount of minutes this season.

Having a young group that has played together for multiple seasons can be an advantage for teams, something Stitt plans to take full advantage of.

“I like to think that will help us,” Stitt said of his combination of youth and experience. “At the same time, we are on the young side, and it’s a process. It becomes a thing where they have to learn to play together. They did play together a lot last year, so I’m hoping to build off last year’s experience going into this year.”

Riverview opens the season Dec. 7 against Deer Lakes in the Deer Lakes tip-off tournament.

D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer.

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