Northern Lebanon girls’ basketball enters the 2015-16 season trying to figure out how to continue to nudge the program a tick upward.
The Vikings were a respectable 15-8 overall last season under veteran head coach Ken Battistelli, 10-6 in Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three.
Northern Lebanon also earned a District 3 playoff berth as a No. 14 seed, before bowing out to West Perry in the first round. It was a rejuvenated program a year ago, following a last-place showing in 2013-14 in L-L 3.
Battistelli’s younger crew — without a single senior on the roster — aims for more this winter, locked in an L-L section that features two-time defending champion Donegal at the top and host of other quality programs in between in its division. The distance to the top might seem high, but one thing the head coach knows heading into the campaign: He’s got the athletes to compete. The puzzle now is making the pieces fit.
“I think that we have a lot of top-end talent,” Battistelli said, “and we’re trying to see how we can fit other players amongst that talent to find the right chemistry and to find balance. We have some experience coming back and then we have some new kids. Integrating them is going to be where the challenge is.”
The top-end talent to which Battistelli refers are also the only three players returning in Fredericksburg who received significant varsity playing time a year ago: guard Zoe Zerman and forwards Megan Brandt and Amber Kintzer. All three are juniors. Zerman, especially, emerged as a scoring threat as the season progressed.
Sophomore guard Liz Voight returns from a shoulder injury that cost her a chunk of playing time last season and figures into the regular rotation. The head coach is high on Voight’s potential.
“She’s really becoming a scoring threat,” he said. “And that’s gonna give us three players on the floor who can dominate the offensive end, and that’s going to give us all kinds of options to attack people.
“They’re all kids who have been in the program for a couple of years now and get what we’re doing.”
The Vikings’ biggest graduation loss is Morgan Phillips, one of four seniors whose careers ended in that first round loss to West Perry at districts last February. Bench depth could be an issue this winter, and was something Battistelli addressed. It could be the one factor — if it becomes an issue — that could keep the Vikings from making a run at the top.
“My goal is that we don’t play one game this year in foul trouble,” Battistelli said. “Depth is not an area we’re loaded at, and every player is so valuable, that … if we play with the team we’d like on the floor, without restrictions due to injury or foul trouble, then our goal is to win everything.”
Along those lines, the first day of practice was a reminder to everyone that each new season is its own petri dish. The head coach chuckled at the memory jog.
“The experience (loss), you can’t put a price tag on,” Battistelli said. “At the first practice, it was one of the things I noticed. Even though I’ve had them for a couple of years now, they’re still sophomores, a lot of them, and I can’t take things for granted that I was, initially.”
NORTHERN LEBANON GIRLS AT A GLANCE
Coach: Ken Battistelli (seventh season)
Last year: 15-8 overall, 10-6 L-L Section Three
Returning starters: Zoe Zerman (5-9, Jr., G), Megan Brandt (5-9 Jr., F), Amber Kintzer (5-6, Jr., F)
Season opener: Dec. 4 vs. Dover at Dover tournament