Hoosac Valley Girls Face Familiar Foe in State Semis
The state tournament stage is nothing new for the three-time Western Massachusetts champion Hoosac Valley Hurricanes.
Their opponent for Wednesday's state semi-final match is nothing new either.
For the third season, the Hurricanes will be making an appearance in in the state semi-finals and, this season it's a rematch against the Central Mass champion Bellingham Blackhawks.
Last year, the Hurricanes defeated the Blackhawks 54-52. They held as much as a 16-point lead late in the third quarter and had an eight-point lead with three minutes gone in the fourth before Bellingham went on an 11-5 run. But Hoosac held the 'Hawks scoreless on three straight possessions with 1 minute, 30 seconds left to secure the win.
"It's tournament play. Every team is not going to give up no matter the lead," Hoosac senior McKenzie Robinson said of last year's semi-final game. "I think we just need to stay the course as coach has told us this whole time, we have to play if were down, we have to play if we're up, we have to keep our game and play thirty-two minutes of it."
Not much has changed for either team; the Blackhawks lost one senior last season, and for the Hurricanes lost two: Jen Gale and Meg Rodowicz, who both were big factors in Hoosac's runs the last two seasons. Rodowicz also led the team with 13 points in the semi-final win.
"They still have their key players, which are really big players inside," Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik said. "They've got two bigs inside which are really tough, we'll have to focus on them.
"What hurt us last year when they came back was it got into more of a half-court game instead of us pressing and trapping. They were able to break it and they got the ball down low to their bigs and that hurt us, so we have to try to keep the game going up and down the court in transition and force turnovers with our press."
For the Hurricanes, the loss of Rodowicz's swift defense and Gale's sharp shooting has forced some people to step up this season, and sophomore Fallon Field and junior Madi Ryan have done just that.
Field had a game-high 19 points in Hoosac's 55-29 Western Mass final win over Granby on Saturday afternoon, and Ryan came in behind her with 15.
"Typically Meg was our best defender, so we lost a really really strong defender there and she would contribute with points," Wojcik said. "But in a game like this we're going to look for spread out scoring and we hope to get some points to Ross [Emily Rosse] and Kay [Frederick] inside, but it's tough going inside with their bigs, so perimeter players like Kenz [Robinson], Madi [Ryan], and Fal [Field] will be really important for us."
"And I think if we can shoot the 3 ball good that kind of opens things up too."
Field and Ryan have shot well from 3-point range all season, along with Robinson. In Saturday's Western Mass final, Field tallied six points from behind the arc and Ryan had nine.
"It's definitely nerve racking being so young," Field said about her role in this years team. "But I think that we all try to play our roles on the team and throughout the season we've learned those roles."
This year the girls will be making the state-semi trip with the Hoosac Valley boys team who defeated Wahconah in the Western Mass. final on Saturday. The boys are coached by Bill Robinson; senior McKenzie Robinson's father.
"My whole life I've always looked up to my dad as a coach," Robinson said. "It's great that we can share something that we love, he's taught me the heart of the game and it feels good that he's not just going to be a spectator for me he's also going to be coaching his boys to the top."
The two teams have two days to prepare before they head out to the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield for a chance to bring back two State titles to Cheshire.
"Coach has the scouting report so we're going to listen to him," Robinson said."We have to focus and we have to carry over what he tells us today in practice and tomorrow to the game and just give it our all."
Coach Wojcik is confident that his girls are ready for another run at the State title and feels they have nothing to fear of the big stage.
"I think with these kids, they've been there in the past so that part is good. So what we do is we take the same approach that we've done the whole tournament, we have the scouting report that we'll go over today and talk about the players what they do offensively and defensively and just have the kids focus on whatever game plan it is we come up with."
"We'll work on that the next couple of days here so when we go in we're not talking about the magnitude of the game or getting to a state final, it's like 'Okay this is what we need to do to beat Bellingham.' "