Lady Raiders are ready to move forward
ron Gower/times news Tamaqua varsity girls basketball team members are, front row, from left, Emily Pratka, Bailey Hartung, Paige Demeriades, Vanessa Solt, Jordan Fucci. Second row, Kayla Hope, Caitlin Trainer, Maria Streisel, Brianna Wittig, Ashley Walker. Back row, Kori Kabilko, Carly Sassaman, Jaclin Valasek, Amanda Solt, and Christine Streisel.
As far as championships go, Tamaqua's 2010-11 title sweep could not have been more impressive or more difficult.
First, the Lady Raiders had to fight their way through the Schuylkill League one of the best girls basketball leagues in all of Pennsylvania.
Then, they had to find a way to beat perennial powerhouse Allentown Central Catholic in the District 11 Class AAA field.
Last year, however, the stars aligned for the Tamaqua and all the challenges set in front of Coach Joe Berezwick and his bunch were met head on. The Lady Raiders won the Schuylkill League, took care of the Lady Vikes in Districts, and advanced to the PIAA State Playoffs where they eventually lost to Oley Valley 52-46 in second round play.
"Last year was an absolute dream season for us," said Berezwick. "We're not going to try and replace our scorers from last season, because that's just not going to be possible. We have a good backcourt and good overall team speed and we're a going to use that to our advantage."
Berezwick wasn't joking when he stated that it's going to be impossible to replace the talent the Lady Raiders lost to graduation.
Most successful basketball squads have three key elements and the Lady Raiders certainly had them in 2010-2011. They had the scorer in Amy Zehner (21.96 ppg), the spot-up shooter in Cassie Eroh (12.34 ppg), and the defensive stopper in Allison Updike (6.3 ppg).
Fortunately for Berezwick, the cupboard is far from bare for Tamaqua in 2011-2012. The Lady Raiders return Maria Streisel (Jr. G 5.62 ppg), Kayla Hope (Sr. G 4.38 ppg), and Christine Streisel (Jr. G 2.64 ppg). The Tamaqua backcourt will feature a lot of speed and quickness and Berezwick intends to use that speed to push the envelope on the hardwood.
"These girls know that we're not a very big team," said Berezwick. "We know we have to push the ball and set a fast pace tempo each and every night we go out on the court. If we allow teams to dictate the pace of the game then that could be trouble for us, and that's why our team speed is very important. If we play uptempo and frustrate teams defensively, which I know we can do, then we should be a challenge for any team we play this season."
Berezwick also knows that playing in one of the toughest divisions in one of the toughest leagues in the state is going to have his team battled tested if they once again are able to advance to post-season play.
"The way the league is shaping up this season, it looks like everybody is going to beat up on each other," said Berezwick. "One of our goals is to always advance to the Schuylkill League playoffs and with Division 1 having a wildcard spot it opens the door for somebody else in the Division to get in. We just have to focus on going in a different direction this season and maximize our speed and quickness in our play on the court."