Sports

State tournament on the back of Swampscott’s minds

Swampscott's Katie Watts returns for her senior season. (Item File Photo)

SWAMPSCOTT — After falling just short of qualifying for the state tournament last season, coach Katelyn Leonard and the Swampscott girls basketball team have one goal heading into the 2018-2019 season.

“Last year was definitely a tough year to not make the tournament,” Leonard said. “We were one game shy of the tournament and I think that feeling has carried over into this year. It’s kind of helping motivate us and gives us a goal at the start of the season.”

The path to achieving that goal got off to a good start on the first day of tryouts for the Big Blue.

“There’s a lot of great talent on this team,” Leonard said. “I told the girls this was one of toughest tryouts we have had. We had a lot of kids working hard and it made it difficult to make the final team. That hard work has carried over into practices and it’s great to see.

“Now we are getting really excited for the season,” Leonard added. “You can only practice for so long without game time so we are definitely ready to get going.”

The Big Blue will be led by an experienced group of returning seniors including Nikki Rosa, Katie Watts and Grace DiGrande.

“It’s a really good mix of some experienced players and new players this year,” Leonard said. “We’ll be looking to our three senior returning starters including Katie Watts who missed several games last season with an injury. We are excited to have her back.

“Their leadership has shown and carried over so well and most of our offense will run through that group,” Leonard added. “A lot of the offense runs through them but we also have a group of young kids who have stepped up and showed us that they will be able to play a role this year as well.”

On the court Swampscott has shown great chemistry and will put an emphasis on defense this season.

“Our style is really focused on defense,” Leonard said. “We want to make things tough on other teams so the rest can fall into place. One of our other goals is chemistry. That’s something that can make or break a team and right now it’s very strong for us. We’re excited to have the chemistry and see it improve.”

Leonard expects the competition in the Northeastern Conference to be tough as usual but is confident the Big Blue can compete.

“It’s a really tough conference,” Leonard said. “It’s very balanced and there are always some tough teams. We just want to take it one game at a time, even one quarter at a time, and improve every quarter.

“Our expectation is to be there at the end of the year,” Leonard added. “We expect to be in every single game we play and that starts at the defensive end and stopping teams. If we play hard on defense the rest should take care of itself.”

Swampscott begins the season next Tuesday on the road in a non-conference game against Manchester-Essex.

“I want to see hard work,” Leonard said of the season opener. “You only get a couple weeks to prepare so I’m sure there will be some mistakes in the first game. I just expect to see hard work. If we play hard for 32 minutes we should be on the winning end most nights.”

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