DuBOIS — It’s often said about a team that finished the previous season with 15 losses, but the DuBois Central Catholic Lady Cardinals are a team on the rise.
Central Catholic started the 2017-18 season poorly, losing six of its first seven games, but turned things around after that.
The Lady Cardinals won seven of eight at one point during the regular season, and advanced to the District 9 Class A quarterfinals. Central defeated Cameron County 48-42 in the first round of the playoffs before falling 46-30 to top seeded North Clarion.
Central Catholic returns each of its top eight scorers from last year as Brenna Engle was the only senior on the roster. The Lady Cardinals went from a team with no returning starters a year ago, to a team returning almost the entire roster. This has created a lot of excitement from the players and second year head coach Jordan Hoover.
“Anytime you return your top eight scorers, it’s exciting. It’s funny how quickly things change because last year we had no experience,” Hoover said. “I thought last year we improved as the year went along, and that’s what we expected because we were so young.
“I think we saw evidence of that improvement with winning seven of eight at one point, and beating a lot of teams that we had previously lost to. This team has continued that improvement through the off season and the preseason.”
The Lady Cardinals showed improvement throughout the season. Central struggled to find consistency on offense at the start of the season, but got better as the season went on.
They also defeated several league opponents that they lost to previously. The Lady Cards beat Ridgway by two after dropping a close contest to the Lady Elkers in December and took down Brockway late in January after falling to the Lady Rovers earlier in the month.
One thing that helped the turnaround was a balanced scoring attack. No one averaged double digits in scoring, but everyone contributed. And, DCC hopes to continue that trend.
“I think we’re really balanced on offense,” Hoover said. “Shayleigh Gulvas led our starters with just over eight points per game, and Haley Pettenati was our lowest scorer in the starting lineup with just over 5 points per game.
“We have several players who could score 20 points on a given night, but I don’t anticipate anyone averaging anywhere near that. I do anticipate everyone’s scoring to rise and keep that balance. I think we’ll be better offensively because we have a lot of players that are capable of scoring.”
Central Catholic only has 10 players on the roster, but every player is returning from last year. Joining Gulvas and Pettenati in the starting lineup are seniors Alyssa Bittner, Abbey Pettenati, and Ashley Wruble. Fellow seniors Gabby Sabatose and Carley Semancik saw playing time last year and look to contribute once again.
Juniors Maia Cogley, Jordan Kosko and Martina Swalligan also gained a lot of experience last year and will have increased roles.
The coaching staff is also unchanged as Brittany Crabb and Ed Gulvas return to assist Hoover.
This is an athletic roster with several players that can have a breakout game any given night.
“I don’t know who is going to lead us in scoring night to night, but I know someone is going to step up,” Hoover added.
The athleticism of the team also creates opportunities for coach Hoover to find the best matchups for his players. Bittner’s height allows DCC to work the ball in and out of the paint and slow the pace down when they need.
When Bittner is out of the game, DCC can run a more up tempo game. Gulvas can play post or guard positions as can Kosko. Swalligan and Semancik can play in the post, while Abbey Pettenati, Haley Pettenati, Sabatose, Wruble, and Cogley are scoring threats from the perimeter, and can push the ball up the floor.
Central faced a brutal schedule last year and will see similar challenges this season. The Lady Cardinals lost three times to Kane a season ago, twice to North Clarion, and once each to A-C Valley and Punxsutawney. All of those teams won their leagues or divisions in the regular season. Each of those opponents are on the schedule again this year.
“It’s a tough schedule again, but we think that will make us better prepared for the playoffs,” Hoover said.
Even with the tough road ahead, the DCC players and coaches are optimistic about the season.
“I think they’re excited because we got to experience some success last year. They had a lot of fun winning games late last year and I think it gave them a taste of something that they enjoyed. They want to continue to improve and capture those feelings once again,” Hoover said.
The Lady Cardinals open their season Friday at the Marion Center Tip-off Tournament against the host Lady Stingers.
Seniors: Alyssa Bittner, Abbey Pettenati, Haley Pettenati, Gabby Sabatose, Carley Semancik, Ashley Wruble. Juniors: Maia Cogley, Shayleigh Gulvas, Jordan Kosko, Martina Swalligan.