On his way out of the gym after Saturday’s Injury Fund games, coach Henry Herbermann was asked by a fan if his South Kingstown Rebels were actually the Runnin’ Rebels. Whether the fan had seen them play or was just thinking of the famous UNLV teams, the nickname is an appropriate one this season.
The Rebels were at their best last year when their pressure defense set the stage for them to push the pace. With even more speed, versatility and depth this year, they may never slow down.
“We’re going to press and we’re going to run,” Herbermann said. “It’s going to be non-stop.”
South Kingstown has built its identity around defense for a while now, even before Herbermann took over last season. The state runner-up team of 2016 leaned heavily on defense, and the squads of the last two years followed suit on their way to 11-7 campaigns.
At times last year, the Rebels got bogged down at the other end, particularly in Division I and state tournament defeats. With the defense still looking strong, they want to push the envelope to avoid those kinds of sluggish nights.
“We’re going to play tough man-to-man and some teams that play that kind of defense like to lock it up and keep the scoring low,” Herbermann said. “That’s not us.”
The team’s personnel makes the style a good fit. The Rebels lost three players to graduation, including four-year starting point guard Brooke Peasley, who was a first-team all-division selection last season. But the young players who took on big roles last season are back in the fold.
“The seniors will be missed, but the girls stepping in are pretty strong,” Herbermann said. “We were a young team last year. We’re a year older, a year stronger and a year smarter.”
Senior Anika Tomlinson and juniors Hayden Hill, Faith Hutchins and Taylor Prout were all-division selections last season. Tomlinson is joined in the senior class by Samantha Hutchins and Keaira Richardson. The deep junior crop includes Sydni Vesterholm and Sarah Sorlien. Sophomore Carley Fewlass saw varsity time as a freshman and is joined by classmates Morgan Gutelius, Jane Carr and Taylor Martin. Freshman Jami Hill made the varsity roster after leading Curtis Corner to the middle school state championship last season.
Most of the players are multi-sport performers, and their athleticism shines through on the court, especially at the defensive end. Every player can guard multiple positions.
“We have a really strong defensive team. They’re quick, they’re athletic, they’re fast, they’re tall,” Herbermann said. “And they’re all multi-sport athletes. A lot of them play soccer and you can really see that – the foot speed, the reaction time.”
The formula has worked well so far. The Rebels didn’t lose a game in summer league play, setting the table for success.
“The girls played really well together,” Herbermann said. “We were very excited that we had a great summer.”
They’ll be off and running on the new season soon enough.
“We’re talented and we’re going to win games, but we really take it one at a time,” Herbermann said. “We’re going to work, we’re going to prepare and we’re going to have fun.”
Narragansett has winning pedigree
It was a banner fall season for Narragansett High School girls sports. The soccer team was the Division III runner-up after an undefeated regular season, the volleyball team won 14 games en route to the D-III semifinals, and the tennis team went 11-2.
With winning attitudes firmly in place, key players from all those squads will unite on the basketball court this winter, where they’ll be aiming for continued success.
“Just the fact that they’ve gotten a taste of what that’s like, I think it only motivates them to push even harder,” head coach Kathryn Mahoney said. “Every single one of our returning players was on the soccer, volleyball or tennis teams. I can almost see a change in them where they understand what it takes and what they need to do. They get it.”
The Mariners are coming off an 8-10 campaign in Division II, a step forward after some struggles when they moved up from D-III the year before. A strong core led the way and mitigated a serious lack of depth, leading the team to the postseason.
“We came in unsure last season – D-II is really competitive and we really lacked any depth,” Mahoney said. “We were all pleasantly surprised with playing well and making it to the playoffs.”
And a familiar nucleus once again looks strong. Seniors Sarah Sweet, Taylor Chofay and Taylor Flint have been starters since their freshman year and will carry the scoring load for a fourth straight season. Sweet and Flint were all-division picks at the guard spots last year. Chofay is a solid presence in the paint.
“It’s kind of like having additional coaches,” Mahoney said. “They know drills, sets, inbound plays, defense, my expectations. It’s invaluable.”
Senior Ella Berard has also been a multi-year contributor. Sophomores Lauren Aldrich, Danielle Hart and Leah Hart all saw significant minutes as freshmen last year. All-division player Reilly Clancey was the only graduation loss from last season, and three freshmen have earned varsity spots, providing a slight improvement in the depth department. Marina Charette, Sarah Currie and Allison Seaver will all see minutes.
“It’s not a ton of depth but it’s better than last year,” Mahoney said. “It helps to have some additional guards and one of the freshmen is a post player, so we have more stability down low.”
Then there’s the winning pedigree. Aldrich, Berard and Sweet played volleyball in the fall, Chofay and Flint starred for the soccer team, and the Hart twins were on the singles ladder in tennis. In addition, Mahoney is the head soccer coach and her basketball assistant Abby Hummel is the head volleyball coach.
Everyone would like a few more wins as they take their games indoors.
“It’s really up to them how hard they want to be pushed, and that determines everything. I saw that in soccer and I’m already seeing it in basketball,” Mahoney said. “These girls get that concept.”
Skippers jelling quickly
With only one returning starter, it may take some time for the North Kingstown girls basketball team to find its way. But with a familiar style and more experience than a quick glance at the roster would indicate, it may not take much time.
“We’re young as far as varsity minutes, but we’ve got five seniors, we’ve got a transfer and I like what we have,” head coach Bob Simeone. “I think it’s going to come together quick.”
The Skippers lost four players to graduation from a 9-9 team, including first-team all-division selection Geneajha Kilgore and second-team honorees Brandee Thomas and Emma MacIntyre. Factor in heavy losses from the year before – six seniors to graduation and an all-stater to prep school – and the Skippers don’t have many multi-year contributors to lean on. Depth and a willingness to make good use of it will help make up for that.
“We’re going to play all 11 and we’re going to run,” Simeone said.
Senior point guard Amanda Vancini is the one returning starter after an all-division junior season. She’s joined in the senior class by Julia Kershaw, Sarah Kinder and Grace Veasley, all of whom saw time off the bench last year. The Skippers are also welcoming in senior transfer Bryanna Rawnsley, who was a contributor for D-I champion La Salle last year.
Junior Maggie Schwab anchors the frontcourt after playing good minutes last year. Other juniors are Katelyn Haberle, Maya Lima and Audrey Martone. Sophomores Isabella DeGregory and Casey Westall will look to make an impact.
It’ll be a family affair on the bench, with Simeone’s daughter, Kayla, joining a coaching staff that already included his son, Brandon.
Simeone doesn’t know how the lineup will shake out – “If I had to name a starting lineup right now, I couldn’t,” he said – but that speaks to the team’s versatility. In a scrimmage this past weekend, the Skippers had five guards on the floor at times and wreaked havoc with their press.
“I think we can cause a lot of problems for teams,” Simeone said. “Once they start clicking, I think we’re going to be tough to beat.”
Crusaders leaning on good core
With limited experience coming off the bench, depth will be a work in progress for the Prout girls basketball team. But an experienced and capable starting lineup just may be enough to vault the Crusaders back into contention this season.
“I think we’re going to be able to play at the top of Division II,” head coach John Silva said. “We’re solid at the top end of our team. We just don’t have a lot of experience outside of that.”
The veteran nucleus will be trying to lead Prout out of a tough year. Entering with reasonably high hopes after an 11-7 season the year before, the Crusaders struggled down the stretch and finished 6-12, which left them outside of the playoff picture.
The quest to get back begins in the paint, where senior Liz Duffy profiles as one of the top players in the division. A key player since her freshman season, she can score in the post and dominate the glass. She was a second-team all-division selection last year.
“She’s up to six feet and she’s a very strong, powerful kid,” Silva said. “She’ll be a force. I’m hoping she comes to understand how to make her teammates better because I think a lot of teams will be keying on her.”
Sophomore Ella Philippi, who stands 5-foot-11, will line up alongside Duffy to give Prout more size than most teams they’ll go up against.
“We want to emphasize and use our size,” Silva said. “We’re not huge, but having a couple of kids around six feet is pretty good in Rhode Island girls basketball.”
Senior Grace Brogno, junior Morgan Holubesko and sophomore Anna Nerbonne will lead the backcourt. All played significant minutes last year, with Holubesko and Nerbonne earning all-division honors.
In addition to scoring, they’ll be tasked with controlling tempo this year. The Crusaders would prefer a slower pace thanks to their lack of depth.
“We’re looking to control the game in a sense and try to use our size,” Silva said.
The bench features a host of players with limited or no varsity experience, including senior Emily Brooks, junior Aaliyah Capalbo and sophomore Zoe Moan, among others.
While Prout hopes to find itself near the top of the standings, it’s not clear what the path there will look like. Realignment sent top contenders Johnston, East Providence, Rogers and Wheeler to Division I, while moving Coventry, Cranston East and Cumberland down to D-II.
“The landscape has definitely changed,” Silva said.
But the Crusaders are fine with focusing themselves at this point and honing in on what they need to do to be successful.
“They’re going to have to bite into the toughness aspect,” Silva said. “They can’t get away with being soft. We’re trying to emphasize that in practice – to be aggressive on both sides of the ball.”