SPRINGVILLE — The Springville-Griffith Institute’s girl’s varsity basketball team had their season cut short, last year. The Lady Griffs fell to Maryvale, in the opening round of the Section VI playoffs, to finish their season with an 11-8 record. With hopes of competing for a Section VI title shattered, Springville coach Chris Mathewson looked for the silver lining.
“The good news is that this year’s team will have seven juniors and two sophomores returning, next year,” Mathewson told The Journal, last winter. “We hope to build on this year’s success and set even higher expectations for next year.”
Fast forward a year, and now the former young team now is a seasoned and experienced bunch, with nine returning starters, that will look to win a lot of games in the Erie County Interscholastic Conference, this year.
“My expectations are kind of mixed,” said Mathewson. “We’re going to compete for the division title and go from there. I don’t want to look ahead too much. We have to be careful, because other teams have players coming back, too. But I like our chances; I expect big things from this team.”
Springville only lost one senior from last year’s team, and returns all five starters. Leading the group of returnees is three-year varsity contributor Alena Woodarek. Woodarek is coming off a stellar soccer season and will look to translate that success to the basketball court. She was primarily the team’s starting point guard last year, but will play off the ball more, this year.
“We don’t want to have one girl who can play the point, this year. If we have three or four guards on the court, we want any one of them to be a threat taking the ball up the floor,” Mathewson said. “That will put Alena on the wing sometimes, and give her some scoring opportunities from some different angles. She’s been really good with penetration and finding people off of that penetration. She’s really worked hard, this year, and her vision seems better than last year.”
Woodarek led Springville in assists last year and finished third on the team, in scoring. Senior captain Tainne Dallas, a three-year player on varsity, will do a little bit of everything, according to Mathewson.
“Tainne can play every position on the floor and will be an important asset, once again,” he added. Dallas was the MVP of the Emerling Ford Holiday Tournament last year, scoring a career-high 17 points, in a win over Eden. Senior Erin Kwiatkowski returns after finishing second on the team in scoring. Kiwatkowski spent the early part of last year coming off the bench for Springville, but broke into the starting lineup, midway through the year. Mathewson said he has liked what he’s seen in two scrimmages from Kwiatkowski.
“I told Erin, after the Orchard Park scrimmage, that was the most energy I’ve seen from her on varsity,” Mathewson said. “She followed that up at the Niagara Wheatfield scrimmage with another good effort. She seems like she’s ready to roll. She’s been scoring in the scrimmages and her defense has really improved.”
Junior Heaven Rollek returns for her fourth season of varsity ball. Rollek will play both guard and forward for the Lady Griffs. She finished second on the team, in both rebounds and steals, last year.
Her best performance last season came against Maryvale, when she recorded a double-double, scoring a career-high 15 points, and pulling down 13 rebounds to lead Springville to a win.
Junior forward Sarah Bryne will be looked upon by Mathewson to play the five position. Bryne, Springville’s tallest player, was called-up to varsity as a sophomore, but battled an injury last year that forced her to miss some time. Even with the missed time, she still led the team in blocks, averaging one per game.
“Sarah surprised me, last year,” said Mathewson. “I knew she was a tall girl, I knew she worked hard, but she was a surprisingly competitive girl. She doesn’t back down from anybody. She has the ability to block shots and rebound and she has the ability to mix it up, down low. She brings that element of competition, in her post defense. We’re looking for her to score more this year, but defensively, she’s critical.”
Springville’s reigning leading scorer and rebounder, senior Tia Woodarek, will miss the earlier part of the year, due to a concussion. Woodarek was a double-double machine as a junior, averaging 12 points and 12 rebounds.
“We’ll be stronger when she is back, but we’re looking pretty good right now,” said Mathewson. “Even without her, the girls have showed a good level of competition. Alena, Tainne, Heaven and Erin have all showed their ability to score. But we’ll definitely be stronger with her than without her. We’ll give her time to heal up and she’ll have fresh legs. Whenever we get our leading scorer and rebounder back, whenever it happens, it will be a good thing.”
Springville’s depth is something that Mathewson said he is most excited about. The Lady Griffs are deep with serviceable guards, freshman Julia Krzemien, junior Meg Hanrahan, and senior Phoenix Rollek. Reserve forwards that will see minutes include Kate Darling, Jenna Schunke and Katrina Kerkendall. Springville also adds Frame Chotchoei, a newcomer to the team, who will play forward.
The Lady Griffs take on Pioneer on Dec. 3, in their first game of the season.