By BRIAN CUNNIFF
The program’s all-time leading scorer, plus two other four-year starters, have graduated from the Wildwood Catholic Academy girls basketball program.
That does not mean the Crusaders are ready to rebuild. They’ll just retool and move forward.
A couple of returning starters, a couple of role players with some experience and a talented group of young players should help Wildwood Catholic remain among the Cape-Atlantic League’s best.
“One of the best ways to keep a program going is when you have that mix of good older and younger players,” said Wildwood Catholic coach Steve DiPatri (25th season overall, ninth at WCA; 505-137 career). “That way you reload and you don’t rebuild. It gives you some continuity. It’s a nice place to be as a program.”
Marianna Papazoglou, who broke the program scoring record in her final high school game, is now at Penn. But 5-3 senior guard Kimmy Casiello (8.5 ppg) and 5-10 junior forward Carly Murphy are returning starters.
“Kimmy has shown a lot of leadership, both over the summer and into the preseason,” DiPatri said. “She has transformed herself into what you would expect out of a solid point guard and looks to be significantly improved as a senior.”
Seniors Xiomara Walker (5-6 G) and Adrianna Gray-Rivera (5-2 G) also return and are expected to contribute, along with a talented sophomore group led by Kaci Mikulski (5-8 G), Ella McCabe (5-10 F) and Ava Vogdes (6-0 F).
“You never know with sophomores, but we see the talent, we see the basketball IQ and we see the desire,” DiPatri said. “We expect them to grow into solid Wildwood Catholic basketball players.”
Freshman Anastasia Bowman (6-0 F) also figures to be in the regular rotation.
Despite the roster turnover, don’t expect Wildwood Catholic to slip. The team should be among the contenders in the newly realigned CAL United Conference, which also includes other top teams such as Middle Township and Our Lady of Mercy Academy, as well as a couple of larger public schools.
The team’s talent and size should help overcome what might be an overall lack of varsity experience.
“We’re not lowering expectations,” DiPatri said.
Wildwood Catholic is scheduled to open the season Saturday with a non-conference game with Cedar Creek at the Prime Events Tip-Off Weekend showcase event at Ocean City High School.
DiPatri’s assistant coaches are Katie Caruso, Caitlin McMullan and Fran St. John.