When it comes to the pressures of competing in the state playoffs, it is important to have that prior experience and familiarity 'under the bright lights' in order to succeed.
Last year the Tamaqua girls' basketball team made it to the second round of the state tournament and got to see what March Madness is really like. Their first-round opponent, the Tornadoes from Mount Carmel, didn't have that luxury. In fact, no player on the Tornadoes' roster has any state-playoff experience.
Of Mount Carmel's five probable starters, only one is a senior. The other four are made up of three sophomores and one junior.
Marisa Farronato is the lone senior and she starts in the back-court with sophomores Heather Bolick and Kim Andruscavage. All three scored eight points to ten points in their last game - a 52-32 victory over Troy in the District 4 consolation game.
"Having playoff experience, especially state playoff experience, really does help us," said Tamaqua coach Joe Berezwick. "You can't underestimate the value of our girls having played in in big games like this. The state playoff are new to Mt. Carmel so it gives us an edge in that respect."
Mount Carmel ran a number of full court presses with the hopes of using its quickness to its advantage against Troy. The philosophy worked perfectly, as the Tornadoes scored the first 23 points of the game.
Rounding out the starting lineup should be junior center Danielle Bernini and sophomore forward Ranotta Ahrensfield. The two scored nine and eight points respectively against Troy.
All five starters scored over 100 points on the year and provide an offensive balance much like Tamaqua's last opponent - Pen Argyl. Tamaqua head coach Joe Berezwick was worried about the Knights' balance then and is thinking the same about the Tornadoes. Berezwick said it was harder to game-plan for a team without a 'go-to scorer' because he didn't know who was going to be getting the ball the majority of the time.
"Mt. Carmel is very athletic and very talented. They play a type of uptempo stly that we have seen from a number of teams we've played in the Schuylkill League this season," said Berezwick. "We have to be able to handle their press. That will definitely be one of the keys for us
Either way, it didn't bother Tamaqua that much as it knocked off Pen Argyl in the District 11 title game by 14 points.
Coming off the bench for Mount Carmel will be a number of more underclassmen. Alyssa Palewicz (Jr., F), Christine Mrozek (Jr., C) and Kayla Shamus (So., G) should be the first three into the game for Varano, with Cara Sinopoli (Jr., G) and Taylor Getty (So., G) also seeing limited minutes.
Tamaqua should also be very familiar with Mount Carmel. The two teams have played 13 times since 1997 with the Raiders winning all but two of them. In fact, Tamaqua has won ten straight games by an average of over 23 points-per-game. Mount Carmel's last win over Tamaqua was on Jan. 3, 1998 by a 55-50 score. That was Berezwick's first year as head coach and he is now 10-1 lifetime against the Tornadoes.
Tamaqua will face District 4's three-seed for the second year in a row. Last year the Raiders defeated Loyalsock before losing to Delone Catholic in the second round. Ironically, Tamaqua could get another crack at Delone if both teams win their first round games. Delone plays Freire Charter - the same team it beat last year.
Also worth noting is the fact that Amy Zehner needs just 16 points to move into fifth-place all time on the Tamaqua girls scoring list. She would pass Carla Kemmerer with 1,273 points.