Girls’ Basketball tips off their season


James Farley

WA huddles up prior to their season opener against Wachusett Regional High School on Saturday, Dec. 17.

James Farley, Co-Managing Editor

10 DCL Championships in 13 years. Reigning DCL Champions. Two banners are necessary to display their recent accolades in the WA gymnasium. These accomplishments solely skim the surface of the WA Girls’ Basketball team’s journey to becoming a DCL powerhouse.

Yet, Head Coach Russ Coward realizes that this year’s team will face several obstacles if they hope to repeat as conference champions this season. Senior stars Carly Davey and Abby Chambers graduated last year, taking away the majority of scoring that the 2021-2022 team relied on to help them win games.

“Losing Carly and Abby took away an excellent point guard and outside shooter, the kind of players that controlled the game,” Coward said. “We are going to have to replace those important players.”

Finding replacements for Davey and Chambers will be a challenge, as WA has an extremely young team. Captains Alanna Saunders and Ali Mammola are the only two returning seniors from last season’s team, and senior Alex Jones will join them as a captain as well.

“The three of them [Saunders, Mammola, and Jones] all understand what it means to be part of this program. They understand how hard you have to work and how much dedication you have to show,” Coward said. “They have been really good examples for the girls in both good and tough times.”

In order to compete in the DCL, these seniors will not only need to be strong leaders, but also step up as individual players on the court.

“Alanna is going to be the focus of the other team’s defense every game, so she is going to have to find a balance between looking for her own offense, and facilitating the other players,” Coward said. “Ali is going to have to learn when she should be running the offense and when she should be looking for her own offense, which is something she is starting to do in practice.”

With the team built around these seniors, the young players in the program, many of which are underclassmen, must step into more serious roles. 

“We have a very big and dedicated freshman class, and I am looking forward to working with them,” Coward said. “There is a lot of potential for growth, and we have a solid base to continue to get better.”

However, Coward still holds these new players to high standards, expecting them to learn from the returning players and make an impact on the court.

“Being young is not going to be an excuse for making mistakes,” Coward said. “We will have physical mistakes, but we have to make sure that we are as mentally sharp as possible.”

Saunders understands that her role as a captain comes with being a role model for the younger players on the team, helping them to avoid the costly mental miscues.

“As a captain and one of the few returning players, I must share my past experiences with the ones who need it,” Saunders said. “We all have to be willing to listen and learn from each other if we want to have a successful season, and it is part of my job to facilitate that.”

Alongside Coward, Assistant Coach Bob Kalukiewicz will return to the WA sidelines for the fourteenth season as an integral part of the Girls’ Basketball program. Kalukiewicz is seeking his 400th career win as a WA coach this season.

“[Kalukiewicz] can take my words and tones, and make them softer and easier for our players to handle, which is a testament to who he is as a coach and a person,” Coward said. “He is the soul of our program.”

With their squad set and ready to begin their season, the two coaches have their eyes set on the hefty task of returning to the state tournament. The state tournament is seeded by power rankings, so as long as WA finishes equal to or better than one game under .500, then they would still be in the top 32 of the power rankings due to holding such a tough schedule.

This difficult schedule will pose difficulties for WA, but will also help them develop as a team by playing such strong opponents. WA will play Wachusett Regional High School on Dec. 17 and Bridgewater-Raynham High School on Feb. 7 this season, both of which Coward considers to be state champion-level teams. 

“Last year we had the fourth or fifth strongest strength of schedule in Division One, and we will be right up there again this year,” Coward said. “We are trying to get better by playing against top-level competition.”

Overall, Coward has his eyes set on the season ahead, aiming to repeat as DCL champions and earn a spot in the state tournament.

“This group has a lot of potential,” Coward said.

WA tips off their season on Saturday, Dec. 17 at home against Wachusett Regional High School.