Stratford High girls basketball captains, from left, Sydney Ritchie, Abby Anka and Sami Perley lead the Red Devils this season. (Photo by John Nash)

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Stratford aiming to continue building process

STRATFORD—Wednesday night’s season-opening loss to North Haven notwithstanding, Stratford High first-year coach Kelsey Gilmore is looking for the Red Devils to grow this season.

“It’s been exciting. There’s been a lot of energy in the gym, which has been enjoyable,” Gilmore said days before the Red Devils opened their 2019-20 season. “It’s a coach’s dream to have a group of girls who want to be coached and are working hard. It’s all been positive so far.”

Two years ago, Stratford was a four-win team that almost doubled its win total and made the state tournament.

A couple of key seniors graduated from the program and others opted not to come back this season, but the Red Devils do feature an athletic line-up.

Many of those returning players did see varsity time last season due to injuries and a lack of numbers.

This year, with just 16 girls in the program, Gilmore hopes to use the swing players to gain experience at the JV level while adding to depth to the varsity bench.

“A lot of them were thrown into varsity roles last year,” Gilmore said. “The way we’ve explained it this year is there are a lot of opportunities to play JV, but it’s not a demotion. It’s an opportunity to get a little more playing time. We don’t want to throw them back out there.”

The team’s three captains all return from a year ago, including the team’s lone senior Abby Anka.

Juniors Sammi Perley and Sydney Ritchie are also captains and veterans of the varsity sports as both played last year and on this year’s volleyball team.

Other juniors on the roster include Ju’lyia Jones and Andaya Mewborn.

The sophomore class is another athletic group with Julie Carbone, Juliette Macisco, Amanda Ogrodowicz and Angelyna Upchurch, all of whom saw varsity minutes a year ago.

Alyssa Diaz and Nina Williams are two more sophomores along with Jailyn Ballester, a transfer from Notre Dame-Fairfield.

Freshmen Maura Conlan, Gianna DeLaura, Adriano Justo and Taylor Robinson round out the roster.

“As far as this team goes, we’re young and athletic,” Gilmore said. “If we can get the girls to buy into what we’re trying to establish and have a positive season, hopefully in the coming years we can build upon that and have even more success in the future.”

Gilmore is the third Stratford coach in the past three seasons, and she recognizes the lack of continuity in the program has cost the Red Devils.

“I just want the girls to know that I left another program to come here, so this is where I want to be,” Gilmore said.

Building on last year’s state tournament run while moving the program in the direction Gilmore wants to take it are the ultimate goals for this season.

“They’re all very mature girls and I can tell they have a vision of where they want this program to go,” Gilmore said. “They’ve been playing basketball a long time, since their youth days, and they’re ready to put in the work.”

The Red Devils might be 0-1 on the season, but a long season awaits.

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