University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Pitt-Johnstown Seal

2012-13 Season Preview

     With just one senior on roster, Head Coach Sasha Palmer (6th year) will once again have to deal with a young squad entering the 2012-13 campaign.  However, the difference between last year and this year is that she will have plenty of experience returning to the court when the Lady Cats take on their final West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) schedule before joining the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) in 2013-14.
     Despite a roster that featured seven underclassmen a year ago, Pitt-Johnstown was able to scratch out a winning record.  Now, those underclassmen have a full season of experience and should use it to help the Lady Cats make a run in the WVIAC this year.
     Coach Palmer, who returns three starters and four other letter-winners, will look for senior guard Maria Montini (Irwin, Pa.) and sophomore guard Kaitlynn Fratz (Accident, MD), the returning WVIAC Freshman of the Year, to provide leadership on and off the court.
     Montini, one of the Lady Cats’ top three-point shooting threats, will need to be productive after averaging 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds before an injury ended her junior season after seven games.
     Pitt-Johnstown will also look to Fratz to duplicate her outstanding first season that saw her lead the team in scoring (17.2 ppg.) on her way to being named the conference’s Freshman of the Year and First-Team All-WVIAC.  Fratz, who proved to be one of the best scoring guards in the WVIAC, poured in 34 points against Glenville State (WV) College on December 3 and scored 20 more points 11 times as a true freshman.
     Also back in the starting line-up are forwards Rachel Johnson (Palmyra, Pa.) and Nicole Carman (Cleveland, OH)Johnson finished her sophomore year as the Lady Cats’ second-leading rebounder at 5.3 per game.  However, after averaging just 4.0 points per game, she must become more of a scoring threat from both inside the paint and on the perimeter.  Carman’s numbers steadily improved throughout her freshman season as she made adjustments to the college game.  After starting slow, Carman wrapped-up her first year as the team’s leading rebounder (6.0 rpg.) and second leading scorer (10.6 ppg.).  With even more experience, her numbers should continue to rise throughout her Pitt-Johnstown career.
     Coach Palmer also has a pair of talented guards and a solid center coming back to add depth to the roster.  Junior Grace Hyland (Pittsburgh, Pa.), who has the ability the score off of the dribble, averaged 3.2 points and 2.8 rebounds a year ago, while sharp-shooting Kelsey Sleighter (Uniontown, Pa.) averaged 8.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in 27 games-played as a freshman.  Sleighter also led the Lady Cats in three-point field goal percentage (39.6%) and was second in three-pointers (40).
     Pitt-Johnstown will also need additional production out of junior center Inaya Stephenson (Pittsburgh, Pa.)Stephenson needs to be a force in the paint and increase on her 3.3 points and 3.0 rebounds a game from a year ago.
     The Lady Cats are bringing back a wealth of talent, but Coach Palmer must replace starting point guard Sara Trimarco (Hollidaysburg, Pa.) and forwards Kayla Loughner (Brinklow, MD) and Katie McBroom (Derry, Pa.)Trimarco, who took control of the point guard position as a sophomore, ranked in the top-100 in assists per game and averaged nearly 10 points per game as a senior, while Loughner and McBroom combined to average over eight points and nearly five rebounds per game.
     With the departure of Trimarco, someone will need to step into the point guard spot.  Whether it’s Fratz, who played there at times last year, or a newcomer, a critical position must be filled if the Lady Cats are going to be successful.
     One of the point guard candidates is freshman Dominique Smith (Maple Heights, OH), a two-time All-Lake Erie League choice.  Smith averaged 18.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 4.8 steals per game as a senior at Maple Heights High School.
     Pitt-Johnstown also signed two freshman forwards and three other freshmen guards who could play important roles in the team’s success.
     Forwards Jasmine Harper (Cleveland Heights, OH) and Jamie Tabon (Pittsburgh, Pa.) bring more depth to the paint.  Harper, an Honorable Mention All-Ohio selection and a First-Team All-Lake Erie League choice, averaged nearly a double-double of 13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds last year.  Tabon collected 11.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game as a senior at Penn Hills High School.
     Freshmen guards Kayla DeCriscio (Altoona, Pa.), Leah Hansen (Waterford, Pa.), and Olivia Rizzo (Irwin, Pa.) will also bolster the Pitt-Johnstown back court.  DeCriscio, who holds Altoona Area High School’s career three-point field goals record with 150, scored 12.3 points per game off of three-pointers to lead all of Pennsylvania in 2011-12.  Hansen was a three-time All-Region choice who finished her career at General McLane High School with 1,133 points, while Rizzo averaged 8.1 points per game as a senior.  She also helped guide Penn Trafford High School to the PIAA AAAA State Playoffs as a junior in 2011.
     Only time will tell, but with the experience returning to the line-up and a mix of  talented newcomers, Coach Palmer and her Lady Cats could make their final season in the WVIAC a special one with a deep run into the conference post-season tournament, and possibly the NCAA Tournament.