Pleasant Valley girls expect to remain contenders
Members of the 2019-20 Pleasant Valley girls basketball team include, front row from left, Drew Morgan, Riley Wagner, Madison O’Neil and Ella Muir; back, Alyssa Wagner, Samantha Merklin, Carly Arndt, Cameron Caffrey, Maryam Mattson and head coach Nadia (Gauronsky) Pavuk. PATRICK MATSINKO/TIMES NEWS
The Pleasant Valley girls basketball team has been a perennial contender under Nadia (Gauronsky) Pavuk.
With the Bears coming off their fourth-straight trip to the District 11 playoffs a year ago, the veteran head coach doesn’t expect the program’s high standards to change this season.
“This team has had a run of experience in the postseason,” said Pavuk. “For us, we’ve kind of been a familiar name (in the playoffs) during my tenure here. So we’ve always been in the running ... and I don’t want that to slip this year.
“So I think our expectations are to make the playoffs, which it always is, and then to maybe surprise some teams who maybe underestimate us with losing as many kids as we did last season.”
Pleasant Valley will need to fill the void left by Ashley Schwenck (6.7 ppg), Alexa Clark (6.0), Brianna Clark (6.2) and Madison Rosenberg (6.4) who played a key role in helping the Bears reach the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and District 11 tournaments.
But Pavuk will have leading scorer and EPC Third Team All Star Cameron Caffrey to lean on. Caffrey averaged 13.0 points per game as a junior.
Also returning are seniors Riley Wagner (4.7 ppg), Alyssa Wagner (4.0), Madison O’Neil (3.0) and Carly Arndt, who are expected to see significant playing time this season.
“They’re going to be relied upon to pretty much do the bulk of the work, whether that be playing positions that they’re not really sized exceptionally well for, because they are pretty undersized playing those big spots,” said Pavuk. “But they’re going to have to, and they’ll do that for that team, and to sacrice yourself for the good of the team, that’s important.”
While Pavuk acknowledged the group might have some mismatches in certain roles, she hopes their versatility is advantageous in other areas.
“I think that’s going to make it hard for other teams to play against us because we may be undersized defensively, but on the offensive end, they’re going to have to play against us, and that may be difficult for them because we’re going to be a lot quicker than they are,” the coach said. “And that’s going to be really important.”
Sophomores Samantha Merklin, Drew Morgan and Maryam Mattson, and freshman Ella Muir are also expected to provide depth and some playmaking-ability for the Bears.
After finishing last year with a 14-8 record and quarterfinal exits in the EPC and District 11 Class 6A tournaments to Bethlehem Catholic and Parkland, respectively, Pavuk knows Pleasant Valley’s success this season hinges on how well the underclassmen mesh with the team’s more established veterans.
“I think if we can execute our game plan, and the quicker that those kids who don’t have the experience learn what a varsity game is like, I think will dictate how our season goes,” said Pavuk. “We can’t rest on our laurels of last season, but we can certainly try to propel ourselves forward.”