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New Foxes girls coach O’Shea inherits talented team

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Dan Speicher | For Trib Total Media
Fox Chapel junior Kayla Slovenec practices Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, at Fox Chapel High School. Slovenec and another junior, Taylor Cohen, are entering their third seasons as starters.

New Fox Chapel girls basketball coach Jennifer Joyce O’Shea received a huge gift to coincide with the first official practice day on Nov. 17.

Her commute from Brentwood High School, where she is a social studies teacher, to Fox Chapel High School was made much easier with the opening of Route 28 northbound.

“It’s made a huge difference,” the coach said with a laugh.

O’Shea was hired to replace Meghan Meabon, who stepped down after last season’s 11-1 section champion came within a few seconds of making the WPIAL Class AAAA final but lost to eventual champion Penn-Trafford, 45-44.

The Foxes won a PIAA first-round playoff game against Erie McDowell at Gannon University before a season-ending loss to Hempfield in the second round to finish 20-6 overall.

The first order of business for O’Shea is replacing Gatorade Player of the Year Erin Mathias, who has moved on to Duke.

With a change of style mandated by Mathias’ graduation, O’Shea hopes to get her players to master multiple skills.

“Even our post players should have dribbling skills,” O’Shea said. “Our biggest things is we want each of them to be basketball players, not robots.”

Four starters return for the Foxes. Juniors Kayla Slovenec and Taylor Cohen, starters since their freshman seasons, are being counted on, along with Gabby Badway, who saw considerable playing time as a ninth-grader last season.

Rounding out the starting five should be Vanessa Balzer and Anna Kelly.

O’Shea hopes to develop depth with Madison Chajson, Ann Huwar and Sarah Sapsura all earning playing time.

A top-notch player, O’Shea scored more than 1,500 points while at Carlynton and made the Presidents’ Athletic Conference first team at Washington & Jefferson.

Joining her on the coaching staff will be her husband Terry, the 1992 Pennsylvania Class AA Player of the Year for state champion Carlynton.

Other staff members include Melissa McKamish, a holdover from the previous regime; and Diana Hoke.

The Foxes will begin the season against Seneca Valley in that school’s tip-off tournament Dec. 5.

Fox Chapel starts Section 2-AAAA action Dec. 12 at home against Plum in a boys/girls doubleheader.

She is still getting to know her players. She was hired as coach late in the offseason.

“We didn’t have a fall league. Some of the girls were playing other sports,” O’Shea said. “We just want the girls to get into the gym and learn a whole new system of defense and offense.”

O’Shea was coach at Brentwood for four years before she stepped away to have children. More recently, she was an assistant to her father, Tim Joyce, at Bishop Canevin.

The Crusaders won the WPIAL and PIAA Class AA titles in 2013.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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