Getting Back On Track: Varsity Girls Basketball Returns to Sharon

  • Sharon Academy tenth grader Molly Kinnarney, of Tunbridge, left, shoots while working with 2018 graduate Eliza Masteller, of Strafford, right, during the Phoenix first varsity basketball practice of the season in Sharon, Vt., Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. Masteller returned to help run practices after they took a hiatus from varsity play in her senior year. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sharon Academy girls basketball coach Greg Nalette lays out his expectations for the team during their first practice of the 2018-19 season after a one-year hiatus from varsity in Sharon Vt., Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Olivia Sanford, of Chelsea, takes a rest during a practice drill during Sharon Academy’s first practice of the 2018-19 season in Sharon Vt., Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. The team did not play at the varsity level last year. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 11/26/2018 11:17:01 PM

Sharon — Girls varsity basketball has returned to Sharon Academy following a one-year hiatus.

The Phoenix achieved a milestone by winning the program’s third playoff game in March 2017, only to become a JV squad the following season.

“(Two years ago) was definitely one of the best seasons in the girls program, if not the best, so we thought we were building momentum,” coach Greg Nalette prior to Monday’s practice. “But the numbers didn’t turn out the way we wanted last year.”

There were only seven or eight players on hand to start the campaign, many of whom lacked varsity experience. Once the decision was made to go JV, eighth-graders were invited to play up whenever they could be spared from their middle-school team commitments.

“It was a tough decision, but probably the right decision overall,” Nalette said. “Our thinking was we could go JV (and) get the younger girls some experience at a more competitive level for them to prepare them to go back to varsity this season.”

Nalette weighed the decision with the help of his players and Blake Fabrikant, the school’s athletic director. Each mulled the pros and cons of dropping down a level in hopes of rebooting in the near future.

“I think (returning to varsity) was the plan,” Fabrikant said during Nalette’s practice on Monday. “(Nalette) and I had discussed the future and we realized in order to sort of keep the program successful and to be able to lure and attract students to play girls basketball, we had to try to rebound and get back to girls varsity as soon as possible.”

Fabrikant’s rebound reference didn’t seem like a pun, but it may have been considering he coaches the TSA boys team, which is coming off a championship season. Fabrikant said 12 players attended his practice on Monday, but he’s hoping to recruit enough to reinstall a jayvee team that was idle last season.

Eight student-athletes were on hand for the girls practice, but Nalette said he expects more to surface as the week progresses.

“They’re a great bunch of kids there,” Nalette said. “For the most part, they show up and work hard and want to learn, so it’s a good group to work with, it’s just our numbers are struggling right now. We just need to build up the interest and I think we have the potential to be a strong Division IV school in the coming years.”

Senior Tommi Hoyt shared her thoughts on both the past and present seasons before Monday’s workout.

“It wasn’t really an option to play at that varsity level,” Hoyt said. “Obviously, I wasn’t happy about it, but I eventually came to terms with that it’s really more about building the program, and if we just went on and played varsity, it wasn’t going to be pretty.”

Experiencing a JV campaign after two seasons on varsity “was not bad at all,” according to Hoyt, who appreciated Nalette’s focus on the game’s fundamentals. Now the fourth-year guard is looking forward to playing on the bigger stage once again.

“I’m glad,” she said. “I was really worried last year that if we went as a JV team, we’d stay as a JV team and we’d never come back, so I’m really pleased that didn’t happen because that was like my one biggest fear because the last thing I wanted was to play JV my senior year.”

Notes: Olivia Sanford and Lydia Eastman are transfer students from now-closed Chelsea High School. Like Hoyt, both have varsity experience under their belts. … The Phoenix open their season Dec. 7 at home versus Lake Champlain Waldorf.




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