PEABODY — The Peabody girls basketball team felt it didn’t play to its potential last season. Peabody dug itself into a tough situation, needing a few wins in the final stretch of its regular season schedule to clinch a state tournament berth. The Tanners fell short and missed the tournament for the first time in Stan McKeen’s four-year tenure as head coach.
Hoping to reach the postseason this winter, Peabody’s stressing camaraderie and positive leadership with captain Kristina Rossignoll leading the way.
“Kristina’s a sweetheart, No. 1,” McKeen said. “She’s been in the program all four years. I’ve never seen a long face on her. She leads by example. She plays multiple positions- the 1, 2 and 3. She has worked really hard on her shooting. She’s a great kid, a true leader on and off the court for us.”
In her first season as team captain, along with Catherine Manning, Rossignoll has established a positive attitude that has trickled down to the rest of her teammates. And with the Tanners at 4-1 through their first five games, Rossignoll’s optimism has paid dividends.
“She’s been on the varsity team since she was a sophomore,” McKeen said. “She never has anything bad to say. She’s always smiling. Even when she may hear from me when she should’ve passed the ball instead of taking a shot or vice versa, she gives me a smile. I’ve had kids in the past that sometimes get frustrated at you but she listens well. She does a great job with Catherine and that’s huge. If you don’t have chemistry, you don’t have anything.
“She’s always in a good mood,” McKeen continued. “She’s always asking what we need to do, she has some suggestions. Those are kids that are once in a lifetime as far as being leaders on and off the court. The chemistry has been very good, that has certainly helped us to a solid start.”
After the disappointing ending last season, Rossignoll has noticed a difference within the Tanners this winter.
“The chemistry wasn’t there last year,” Rossignoll, a senior who’ll study physical therapy at Quinnipiac in the fall, said. “There were a lot of not-so-positive vibes on the court. This year we’re coming together. We’re all friends off the court. That has impacted us on the court so we can all be together. Our practices have been a lot more focused. We really want to make the tournament because we have so many seniors.
“Having us together outside the court has really impacted us. The team bonding and the chemistry has really helped us build character.”
This year’s roster carries plenty of experience. The Tanners returned nine members from last winter’s team, seven of them are seniors.
“A lot of the returners have played a lot so that’s beneficial,” Rossignoll, who also plays softball, said. “All the seniors want to make the tournament. All the players that were on the team last year are so close. That has pushed us to succeed. We all want to go far this year. Everyone’s putting their best foot forward.”
Rossignoll doesn’t take her role as team captain lightly. She captained Peabody’s softball team last spring and learned the importance of establishing a positive attitude among her teammates. She has made it a point to do so with the basketball team too.
“Personally I think a positive attitude and always working hard, hustling is the most important thing in anything you do,” Rossignoll said. “Whether you’re in school, in a school club, on a team, having a positive attitude is the main thing. I think the best thing a captain can do is make sure everyone’s having a good day, feeling positive. That way when we go into a game, everyone feels good and everyone puts their best foot forward.”
Rossignoll’s versatility has also helped the Tanners through their strong start. The senior plays the point guard, shooting guard and small forward positions, and can fill in at any role depending on where she’s needed.
“I’m open to wherever coach needs me to play,” Rossignoll said. “We don’t have a main shooting guard or a main small forward. I’m most comfortable at shooting guard. I haven’t disliked playing point guard in any way. I’m open to whatever the team needs.”
Rossignoll’s averaging 11 points and four rebounds per game. This past weekend at the Brad Sheridan Tournament at Marblehead, she won the tournament’s sportmanship award.
“It helps immensely. Already in the first three games, she’s played all three positions,” McKeen said. “We fill kids in at different positions, as we’re trying to fill in at point guard. The big thing is she remembers all the plays. She’s very adept. Believe it or not, basketball’s not her top sport. She’s the catcher for the softball team but she’s a great basketball player and very versatile.
“It’s been a pleasure to have her for four years,” McKeen continued. “She’s done a great job. I’m sure she’ll continue to do a great job the rest of the season.”
Peabody visits Everett Friday night (7).