The good news for Penfield girls basketball opponents: This season they won’t face as much of the man-to-man pressure defense that has been a staple of the program’s success over the past five years that have included two Section V championships and two runner-up finishes while going 90-20.
Here’s the bad news: The biggest lineup in coach Mark Vogt’s 13 seasons will employ a swarming zone. When opponents get into the lane, they just might feel like they’ve been swallowed up in a sea of red, as long arms flail at them and Penfield players chirp “ball, ball, ball.”
“We’re hoping that this year we can live up to everyone’s expectations,” said Margot Hetzke, the forward who starts her fifth and final season as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,461 points.
“It is exciting to still be a team that people want to beat. Coach says that nobody ever brings anything but their best when they play Penfield.”
Even though the Patriots return only two starters — All-Greater Rochester picks Hetzke and senior guard Lucy Covley — they were voted No. 1 in the Democrat and Chronicle‘s first large-school coaches’ poll. Rival Gates Chili is No. 2, but returns only senior guard Cierra Dillard among its top three scorers.
In the small-school poll, last year’s Class B state runner-up Waterloo edged defending Class C state champion Bishop Kearney for the top spot.
“We have seven new kids this year and unlike other years when they can learn from the bench we’re throwing them in the fire and for the most part they’re ready,” said Vogt, whose team plays host to No. 5 Hilton in its 3:45 p.m. season opener Saturday. “I think we’re pretty deep.”
Last year’s junior varsity went 17-1, but no one other than Hetzke, Covley and senior guard Shannon Nesselbush has seen significant varsity minutes. Backup forward Leah Crockett is also out for at least two more weeks with a left ankle sprain. Vogt, however, plans to plug in 6-2 sophomore Emma Guy. She’s a transfer from Wayne, moves well and can convert down low. Guy also should help take some of the scoring load off Hetzke and Covley, who averaged 18.3 points and 14.6, respectively, last season.
Nesselbush, a backup last year, and 5-11 senior forward Alexa Bartosiewicz, round out the starting lineup with the 5-11 Hetzke and 5-10 Covley, who’ll be needed to handle the ball more than ever before. Nesselbush is the younger sister of Sheila and Michelle, twins who started the past two years.
“We don’t really have a point guard,” said Covley, a good shooter and slasher who has signed with Division II Roberts Wesleyan College.
For the past four years, Vogt has wanted Hetzke and her post moves as close to the basket as possible. He’ll still want that, but she’s going to be needed when teams try to press Penfield. She looks at more perimeter play as chance to work on a skill she’ll need next season as Siena College.
“It’s kind of cool,” she said. “I have an opportunity to completely add something new to my game.”
The zone will be new and push guards out farther to shoot, as Vogt puts his biggest players at the wings or top of the zone and lets Nesselbush use her quickness in the middle of it. Watch out for eighth-grader Makaila Wilson, who also has good quickness. Vogt said Penfield probably played 90 percent man-to-man in years past, but that could drop to 60.
With their overall size and inability to chase small guards, it could be more. On offense, that size should be able to hurt teams on the boards, too.
“(Vogt) always says rebounding is the most important battle to win,” Covley said.