Girls hoop: Wilton begins season with new starters, new head coach

With its entire starting lineup and several key reserves having graduated, the Wilton High girls basketball team enters the 2018-19 season as something of an unknown.

That’s fine with Fred Francello, who is the Warriors’ first-year head coach.

“Expectations probably aren’t that high for us,” said Francello, who was recently hired to replace Rob Coloney. “But we are going to give a great effort every night, I know that. The girls are working hard and listening, and I’m pleased with the progress we are making.”

Graduation took a toll on the Warriors, who went 19-6 last season. Wilton reached the FCIAC championship game before losing to Trumbull and then fell to Hall in the second round of the Class LL state tournament.

“We’re young and inexperienced, and our tallest player is five-foot nine,” said Francello. “We need to maximize what we do well and minimize mistakes.

“We have some speed and some ball-handling and shooting,” added Francello, whose team opens the season today (Dec. 10) at home against Harding-Bridgeport at 5:30 “But everything is going to be predicated on the defensive end. I’d rather win a game 46-39 than lose one 76-74.”

Francello will look to three seniors — guards Kaitlin Reif and Sophia Strazza and forward Maddie Burke — to provide leadership.

“The seniors have to set the tone, and they are doing that so far,” said Francello. “The younger players are going to look up to them as examples.”

junior guards Zoe Rappaport and Nancy Lynch

Along with junior guards Zoe Rappaport and Nancy Lynch, Reif, Strazza, and Burke are part of a small group that received some varsity playing time last season. Rappaport averaged 3.6 points per game last season and is the top returning scorer.

Wilton’s roster also includes junior Fran Goncalves, sophomores Caitlin Greeff, Lilly Umphred, Riley Eaton, and Callie Judelson, and freshmen Catherine Dineen, Katie Umphred, Ellie Copley, and Leah Martins.

“There are some bright spots,” said Francello. “The younger players have a lot of skill and our depth is pretty good. I probably have three different lineups in my head already. We might switch up the lineup depending on who we are playing against.”

For this season, Francello says his goals are straightforward.

“We want to get better every day in practice and win as many games as possible,” he said. “I think we can be a much improved team by the end of the season.”