Kiski Area girls brace for rough season
Nick Ionadi has only eight players on his varsity roster, but don’t expect the third-year Kiski Area girls basketball coach to look for the “Break Glass in Case of Emergency” sticker.
Ionadi seemed unfazed by last season’s lopsided results and said there could be more to come. Still, the optimistic coach insists the program’s best days lie ahead. It’s getting through the rough patches that could make those times that much more enjoyable.
Only two starters return from a team that finished 0-20 and averaged just 19.2 points. Kiski Area hasn’t won since the next-to-last game of the 2012-13 season. Junior 5-foot-5 guard Alexis Trkula and 5-4 sophomore guard Emily Cieslinski saw significant time. Trkula will be the floor leader and go-to scorer, Ionadi said.
“Alexis is going to be the one I count on for everything, from points to defense to keeping the newer girls calm out there,” Ionadi said. “Emily is going to be counted on to provide some leadership; the girl has a motor that never quits. She just works and works and works, no matter what the score is.”
Freshman Katelynn Brown also is expected to play a key role.
After that, Ionadi has plenty of question marks. Freshman 5-8 forward Mallory Schick is still new to the game, and freshman Sarah Heavner is finding her way despite being slowed by an injury.
Ionadi is passionate about coaching, and he is honest about the current situation.
“Scoring is going to be incredibly difficult for us this year. This is going to be tough for the girls,” Ionadi said. “However … these girls are working hard, and we understand the big picture. We are preparing for the future and what is to come. Our future looks great.”
While it did top the 30-point mark four times, Kiski Area lost by an average of 44 points. It lost one game 67-6 another 63-9.
Ionadi said the team expects to be back in the Class AAAA playoff race in 2016. And while that may sound like a campaign promise, Ionadi is counting on a vote of confidence from the program and those around it.
Coaching changes and disarray the past few years have been challenging. But Ionadi believes his system is taking root.
“This year, I want to get my freshmen and sophomores established and comfortable,” he said. “The fact the program was a total mess … this year’s team is really the last group that is a by-product of that time period.”
Ionadi said he told the administration he needed to establish a sound feeder program and that it would take “five to seven” years to implement and show results. He said parental support has been exceptional and patient.
“That is how a program is built,” he said. “We are right on our intended pace. Forget wins and losses because it isn’t happening and it isn’t important for us right now. We have to build from the ground up; we must do it the right way, and that is what we have done.
“No more disconnect where the middle school is doing its own thing that has no relation to the varsity. Everything is the same: terminology, principles and basics.
“Everything hinges on the girls sticking with it, of course.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.