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‘This is not an easy league’

West Milford. Still, West Milford girls basketball head coach Ray LaCroix believes he has a hard-working team capable of competing at a high level in the playoffs this season.

| 05 Dec 2021 | 04:18

Sports fans may very well be familiar with phrases such as “long shot” or “safe bet.”

Well, it’s a safe bet that the West Milford High School girls basketball program is looking forward to stepping onto the court for the 2021-22 season.

The Highlanders captured six victories last season, which was shortened due to the deadly COVID 19 pandemic.

West Milford is scheduled to host Indian Hills on Dec. 21.

“Winning season with a double digit win total, or at least to be in that neighborhood (is a season goal),’’ West Milford head coach Ray LaCroix said. “(We want to) win the Pequannock Blue and Gold Holiday Tournament, no small feat this year, very tough competition there with DePaul, Pequannock and Columbia.

“(We also want to) have a home county game and advance in the County Tournament and have a home (NJSIAA) State Tournament game and advance,” the coach added. “We are looking to reach the State Tournament for the 10th consecutive season.’’

Tested scholar-athletes

Key returning varsity tested student-athletes for the Highlanders include Rachel Chandler (senior guard, First Team All-Conference and Second Team All-County last season), Olivia Arciniega (senior, forward, Honorable Mention All-Conference last year), Samantha Araujo (senior, forward, missed junior season with an injury, top team rebounder as a sophomore), Maggie Spagnuolo (junior, guard) and Avery Vacca (sophomore, guard, Second Team All-Conference and Honorable Mention All-County last season).

The promise of newcomers

Among the promising newcomers to the varsity roster for West Milford are Dillen Orsino (senior, forward), Kailey Maskerines (sophomore, guard), Aubrey Fritz (sophomore, forward), Adison Arciniega (freshman, guard), Laurel Space (freshman, forward) and Vivian Sirnik (freshman, guard).

The captains who lead by example

“We have four very capable captains this season Rachel Chandler, Olivia Arciniega, Samantha Araujo and Rebecca DeTuro, who is out for the season due to a shoulder injury,’’ LaCroix said. “This program is in very good hands because they are all hard workers and lead by example. Rachel Chandler is 22 three pointers away from being the all-time leader in that category in the history of girls basketball at West Milford.’’

The competition

The Highlanders compete in the Big North Conference Independence Division along with Lakeland, Fair Lawn, Wayne Hills, Wayne Valley and Passaic Valley.

“In both the County and Conference, Wayne Valley is the clear cut team to beat this season,’’ LaCroix said. “We will be a contender in both. Wayne Hills will be good as well and Lakeland and Fair Lawn are always tough, too. This is not an easy league. In the County after Wayne Valley, Eastside is probably the next best team and it’s wide open after that.’’