Ladycats, Comets look to make strides in 2011-12

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 26, 2011



East St. John coach Jackson Manuel looked at last season as a learning experience for an inexperienced team. This season, he believes we may well see the fruits of that education.

The Wildcats missed the playoffs a year ago, but return a deep and talented team in 2011 led by its strong senior backcourt duo of Bria Joseph and Kanitra Lee and forward Kemyra Arvie.

“I feel very good about this team,” said Manuel. “Those three are going to be back. We should have some size this season, more than we did last year. I think this group can make a run at district.”

Jackson believes he has perhaps nine players that can play significant minutes this season, something he in part attributes to a number of young players having to step up unexpectedly last season.

“Sometimes, things happen for a reason,” said Manuel. “Last season we had some players who left the team and other things that happened, and we ended up playing a lot of kids who were really supposed to be reserves and J.V. players. Now, they’ve already got a taste of varsity,” said Manuel. “I feel really good about this team.”

Meanwhile, St. Charles Catholic has seen a new coaching staff debut with the girls program, albeit one with familiar faces. Longtime head baseball coach and football assistant Paul Waguespack takes the helm this season, assisted by former girls basketball coach Jeff Montz and volleyball coach Kristin Sullivan.

The Comets struggled last season but scored their first win of the season this week in convincing fashion (see story) over St. Helena Central, 50-20.

Senior forward Kacie Braud, last year’s leading scorer, returns, as do fellow seniors Emily Picciola, Alex Hitt and Heather Orillion. Waguespack said that he feels the team has a strong core in that quartet, also noting that having Picciola for a full season will be a lift; she missed most of last season due to injury.

But he also said that rebuilding the Comets won’t happen overnight.

“Right now, we’re setting goals for our team in each game,” he said. “Of course we want to win, but, for example, we turned the ball over 37 times against Covington. That’s an established program. We play another Saturday in Northshore. Can we cut that number in half?

“Maybe in another game, we say we want at least eight points a quarter. Just things that will help us get a little bit better each time out.”

Waguespack said that a tough schedule will yield some growing pains, but that he feels it will be beneficial for his team to face top competition and see firsthand what they do to yield success.

He said this is a different type of job for him — not only in terms of the sport itself.

“Coaching girls is a big difference, and I’m getting used to that,” he said. “In one game, for example, an official comes up to me and tells me to make sure the girls don’t have bobby pins in their hair. And I’m thinking, ‘Bobby pins?’ Those types of things.

“They do know that I’m going to try to get the best out of them. I’m going to coach hard. But this group is willing to listen. They want to learn. It’s new for me, and it’s fun and exciting.”