Lady Highlanders basketball team preparing for season

West Milford. The West Milford High School girls' basketball team is preparing for a successful season.

| 20 Nov 2019 | 07:44

The 2019-20 West Milford High School girls’ basketball season kicks off on Dec. 20 with a home game against Mahwah, and this year's team will be ready.

“We reached the state tournament for the seventh consecutive season last year,” said Head Coach Ray LaCroix. “We hope to make this season number eight in a row.”

Several key players are returning this year and, according to LaCroix, that should help.

“We return a number of girls with starting experience and who have played major varsity minutes,” he said.

Some of those returning players include senior forward Ashley Jacobs, who was named to the First Team All Conference and Second Team All County last year.

Jacobs will be one of the team’s co-captains this season and she will be joined by senior guard Kristina Fedor.

Fedor serves as one of the Lady Highlanders’ primary ball handlers and three-point threats.

Junior guard Rory McCormick, who was tabbed honorable mention All Conference and All County last year, is also returning this season.

McCormick was one of the team’s top three-point shooters and defenders last year.

From there, there’s junior forward Amanda Gerold, another of the squad’s top defenders, and junior guard Brielle Hanley, the back-up point guard.

Sophomore point guard Rachel Chandler, who led the team in three pointers and assists last season, will also be back.

Chandler was named to the Second Team All Conference and Honorable Mention All County last year.

“She returns as one of the top point guards in the conference and in the county and is a key player for us going forward,” Coach LaCroix said of Chandler.

Sophomore forward Olivia Arciniega, one of the team’s more versatile players according to her coach, will also be returning this season, as will fellow sophomore Samantha Araujo.

“Samantha is maybe our best athlete on the team and someone who we expect to be a huge contributor this season,” said Coach LaCroix. “(She’s) one of our better rebounders and finishers inside.”

Junior forward Alex Buonanno and sophomore guard Rebecca DeTuro, key contributors last year, were also expected to return this season, but both players will be out due to injury.

“Both players will be missed for sure,” LaCroix said.

Aside from the returning players, the Lady Highlanders will be looking to new players to contribute at the varsity level.

“We have a solid freshman class coming in and we have a number of returning players from the JV and Frosh teams last season who will help to provide depth and potential minutes for us this season,” said Coach LaCroix.

The head coach believes it’s his team’s experience together that will be key to its success this year.

“I think our chemistry as a team and our experience from last season should be a strength,” he said. “We were by far the youngest and least experienced team in our conference last season, and still reached the states.”

As far as where the team needs to improve, LaCroix says it’s all about consistency and playing tougher on defense.

“We have the talent to compete. We proved that last year,” the coach said. “We lost nine games last season that we either led or were down by one possession in the fourth quarter. We have to turn a few of those into wins this year.”

The team also hosted a county tournament game and advanced last season, something the team is looking to build off of this year, according to its coach.

“Our goals this season include defending our title at the Pequannock Blue and Gold Holiday Tournament, hosting a home game in the County Tournament, and advancing further this year,” LaCroix said. “And reaching the State Tournament for the eighth consecutive season and hopefully earning a seed that gives us a chance in the first round.”

The Lady Highlanders have to play a few more scrimmages before they’ll get the chance to start building on last year’s success in the official season opener on Dec. 20.

“I think our chemistry as a team and our experience from last season should be a strength. We were by far the youngest and least experienced team in our conference last season, and still reached the states.” - Head Coach Ray LaCroix