Youthful Lady Lancers striving for success

The Neshannock girls don't have any seniors on their roster this year, which usually signals a lack of experience.

On the positive side, it means this group has two seasons to play together.

“That’s nice. It’s a great, great group of kids — probably one of the youngest teams I’ve ever had at Neshannock,” Neshannock coach Luann Grybowski said. “We have some experience and it’ll help us.”

Grybowski, who has a 666-303 mark in 40 overall seasons, hopes to earn win No. 200 in her 11th campaign at Neshannock. She is 192-79 with the Lady Lancers and the third girls coach in WPIAL history to reach 600 overall wins. She welcomes back junior starters Neleh Nogay, a key component of the program’s WPIAL championship squad two years ago, and Addi Watts.

“Neleh was nagged with injuries and was never fully 100 percent last year. She looks much better this year,” Grybowski said.

Sophomore Mairan Haggerty was the team’s top reserve last year and projects to start this season.

“Neleh can attack, shoot the 3 and defend. Addi Watts is probably one of the hardest working kids I’ve had. She’ll do whatever I need. She is tough and aggressive. That’ll make us a little tougher,” Grybowski said. “Mairan is a finesse kid. She grew a lot. She makes everything look easy. She is pretty athletic.”

Sophomores Avi DeLillo, Megan Pallerino, Marissa Austin, Aaralyn Nogay as well as Hunter Newman, a transfer from Central Valley, all were slated to see playing time. However DeLillo tore her ACL two weeks ago and is liost for the season.

“We don’t really have any true post players. We have kids playing in the post, but we’ll probably play four out and one in and do more dribble-drive and motion. What you have dictates what you do,” Grybowski said. “We’re looking to play fast and looking to defend. If we stay out of foul trouble, we’ll be able to extend the floor a bit. If not, we’ll end up playing half court. Other than our post girl, any of the other four who get the rebound can go with it. We don’t have to look for an outlet. Things are a little cleaner that way. That may be to our advantage a little bit, too.”

Neshannock’s offseason was interrupted by pandemic restrictions. The Lady Lancers are glad to be back in the gym, but Grybowski feels like the team has a lot of catching up to do.

“My concern is they are not conditioned well enough,” she said. “When that happens, there’s a chance they are more injury prone. We’re taking some time to do more conditioning. We had a scrimmage canceled and our first two games canceled, too, so that doesn’t help. But, we’re getting better at seeing the floor and passing the basketball. Early on, I see us doing that really well. Our downfall is that we have to really work at boxing out and securing rebounds. We can’t let teams get two or three rebounds in a row. We may have to play some zone, given the size of the other teams.”

Neshannock, which finished 11-11 overall last year, went 7-7 in WPIAL Section 1-3A. The Lady Lancers dropped to Section 1-2A and will face Aliquippa, New Brighton, OLSH, Sewickley Academy, Shenango and South Side Beaver.

“For us, everybody is different. There’s more travel, too,” Grybowski said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

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