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photo: Maroon and Gray (L to R: Ava Sacchetti, Allison Ponton, Sarah Cortese, LoriAnne O'Connor, Kayla Vu)

Spotlight: NHS Freshmen Girls Basketball

The NHS Girls Basketball season kicked off with tryouts the Monday after Thanksgiving, November 27, 2017. Tryouts took place for seven days, from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. The pool of girls trying out this year was small, with 25 girls competing for spots  on the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity teams.


For the 2018 winter season, nine girls make up the freshmen basketball team. The starting five include girls who played in seventh or eighth grade and even younger: Ava Sacchetti, Sarah Cortese, Allison Ponton, LoriAnne O’Connor, and Kayla Vu. The girls have set high goals for the team and have a passion to work hard.


One player, Kayla Vu, has not played travel basketball, like many of her teammates, so the competition of the freshmen team is new to her. “There are lots of different ways high school basketball is different from what I know: recreation basketball," said Vu. "First, practice is everyday which challenges me mentally and physically because we learn how to balance our education with sports and time management. Also, we do team bonding and it helps us play better together as a team. My expectations for this season are just to do as much as I can for my team and just play the best I can. We all have lots of skill and potential, so I'm looking forward to learning from Coach McNish and from my team.”


The first game of the season was on December 15, in Westfield, but due to weather issues, it was canceled and rescheduled. The team played on December 19 in Caldwell and was defeated. The girls then claimed victory in their second game versus Memorial, a West New York, NJ team. The game took place at NHS on December 21.


Nutley’s third game was held at John H. Walker Middle School on January 3. Their opponent was West Orange. West Orange is known to be a very skilled sports school and the game was  intense. While Nutley outscored West Orange before halftime, they quickly lost their lead in the third quarter and, in the end, lost the game.


Nutley’s fourth game was held on January 9, against Memorial, for a second time. This time, NHS suffered a defeat. NHS then beat Paterson Charter in their fifth game with a score of 42-7.


Along with the players hoping to win a few more games, freshmen coach, Ms. Kara McNish, is also trying to win every game possible, even if she isn’t the on the court. She has been coaching for two years at Nutley High School, and a total of five at another school before coaching for Nutley. She hopes to make each and every individual get stronger at the game of basketball.


“We are going to definitely have to overcome some growing pains as any team does, but I know we will get through those because we have a good group of girls who get along really well and that's super refreshing,” says McNish. “I do enjoy coaching freshmen basketball. I love basketball and have played my entire life through college. It has a really special place in my heart and life and I'm glad I get to share my love and passion for the game with young girls.”


As the season progresses, the girls of the Nutley freshmen team have built a stronger relationship in both the game of basketball, and outside of it. Each player has their own special quality that makes the team even more great. Current player, Sarah Cortese, a center for Nutley freshmen, has been playing for approximately six years with Nutley. She is a starting player and a top leader to majority of the team. Her aggressiveness is hard to beat, and her passion to play is even harder.


“We’ve bonded pretty well over these past few weeks, everyone is improving skill-wise, as well,” says Cortese. “My expectations for this season are for everyone to learn and grow as basketball players. I don’t think the season will result in us losing all of our games, but we won’t win all of them either.”


Nutley still has a lot more games to play during this winter season. There will definitely be some challenges along the way, but with a good group of girls who have a strong passion to play, the Nutley season will end in a rewarding way.