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Lady Blue Devils Look to Take Next Step

As the Kenmore West Lady Blue Devils head into the 2016-17 varsity basketball season they have one primary goal in mind: take that next step in sectionals.

The last two seasons have been a study in highs and lows for the Lady Blue Devils as they won back-to-back Niagara Frontier League titles, but they also saw both campaigns come to a shocking end at the hands of Clarence in the Section VI Class AA quarterfinals.

“All summer long we’ve been talking about losing in the first round,” said head coach Jeff Martin.

“Working harder in our open gyms. A big goal of ours is going to be to go further in the playoffs. The AA’s have some terrific teams and we’re gonna give it everything we’ve got.”

While getting out of the first round is on the team’s to do list, three-peating as NFL champs is also a goal for the Lady Blue Devils.

“Oh definitely,” was senior Anna Quinlan’s response to three-peating. “But definitely new year, new girls. We obviously won’t have the same team as the previous year, but that goes for every year. We still have to defend our title. It’ll be great to have it a third year in a row.”

The Blue Devils will being moving forward after losing three players to graduation: Julia Gaeta, Lexie Dymond and Samantha Britton, who ranks in the program’s top-10 all-time scorers.

In addition to the girls lost to graduation, the Blue Devils will also be without senior guard Grace Ferguson, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during soccer. Junior guard Tiesha Rivera, who is also on the mend from a knee injury, is also a question mark.

So while most teams will enter the new season saying how their veterans need to step up, Ken-West is taking the approach of every girl needs to step up.

“Absolutely. Every girl has to step up,” said Martin.

“We lost two important players (Ferguson and Rivera) but it’s the next person up. And I truly believe it’s not the next person up, it’s the whole team up. And we’re gonna need a great team effort to have a great season.”

While Martin stands by his statement that every girl has to step up and do more he did add that he is lucky enough to have a core of veterans in Quinlan and fellow seniors Rachel Sefried, Emma Pfohl and Jessica Phillips who will give the team its sense of stability.

“We really do have a real nice core of girls to build around and it all started this past summer in the off season,” said Martin.

“When the season ended the open gyms, the AAU’s, the showcases that we went to. It’s all helped us build a nice cohesive group.”

The Blue Devils also get the plus of junior Abby Borkowski returning to the program after a two year hiatus where she focused on the travel aspect of her primary sport, volleyball. Arguably the best all-around athlete at Ken-West, Borkowski brings the same level of athletic ability and toughness that will enable her to be the team’s lock down defender-a roll Ferguson did so well.

“It’s awesome,” Quinlan said of Borkowski. “You can already tell that she’s going to be a great fit, honestly, with this program. She played JV, I know that, even then we could tell she was a really good fit.”

Alexis Rivera, Maddie Green and Jasmine Geis also return looking to play larger roles, while sophomore Jenna Romano, who was on JV last season, has looked impressive during the first couple days of training camp.

Traditionally rich with speedy guards who can handle the ball, the Blue Devils need the 5-foot-8 Pfohl to play tough down low, while the 5-foot-11 Quinlan will be counted on to score inside the paint.

Martin said the addition of Charlie Panepinto to the coaching staff is another plus for the program. Panepinto, who most recently coached at Medaille College, takes over the JV team. He brings an extensive knowledge of the game and coaching experience.

In an effort to foster a one family, one program mind set where everyone knows and supports each other Martin said varsity and JV will be running joint practices through the end of November.

As of press time the Blue Devils had not yet picked captains, but whether she wears a “C” or not, Rachel Sefried will no doubt bring a voice of leadership. When Ferguson sustained her devastating knee injury in the East/West soccer game in September, it was Sefried who calmed the girls on the sidelines and kept everyone focused. Sefried said every returning player is seeking redemption of sorts after falling to Clarence, at home, the last two seasons.

“It’s definitely been a challenge in the past,” said Sefried. “Winning the league has been great, but then we fizzle out. So it’s always been a problem for us, especially losing to Clarence. Yeah we’ve lost two of our starters, a point guard (Rivera) and a really strong starter (Ferguson), so people have to step up and fill the spots and I don’t think it will necessarily be bad. Because it may just show something different for our team. I think we all know that we have to step up and I think that will help for playoffs and the season itself.”

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