Despite a tumultuous regular season that included Mike Valente replacing Eddie Stritzel who resigned as the head basketball coach at Trinity, the senior-led Blazers put it all together down the stretch. Led by seniors Annie McKenna and Kaitlin Aylward, Trinity (30-6) defeated Whitney Young to finish third in Class 4A last season.
While the Blazers return a nice mix of varsity players and promising newcomers, the program was hit with several losses. In addition to McKenna and Aylward, fellow starters Alisa Fallon and Daliyah Brown have transferred out of Trinity. Super sophomore Annie Stritzel has joined her dad, Eddie, who is the head coach at Nazareth. Alyssa Geary and Kennedy Williams have also left Trinity.
Nevertheless, Valente is optimistic the Blazers still have plenty of talent to do some major damage.
“Last year we knocked on the door, and this year we’re going to kick it in,” Valente said. “That’s our motto this year. We’re planning on big things with this team. We really like our chemistry and our depth, and we’re still young.”
Junior guard Lauren Lee, the lone returning starter from last year’s team, is a Division I recruit with tremendous versatility. She can play multiple positions and has a wealth of talent and experience.
Other key returners include 6-foot-2 junior center Alex Fanning, senior swingman Sinead Molloy, senior guards Sheahen Dowling, and Emma Hayes. Junior Kelcie Leyden will also contribute this season for the deep Blazers.
“Lee and Fanning are both division one players that have been recruited pretty hard,” Valente said. “Lee will be one of the top players in the state this year. She is a phenomenal defensive player that’s smart and athletic.
“Fanning is back on the court after having foot surgery in March. She looks great. She scores really well down low and is a fantastic rebounder.”
Immediate contributors are common at Trinity. Valente cited freshmen Dayjah Chmielewski and Zyerra Stafford as particularly promising.
“(Chmielewski and Stafford) both played in some big time AAU programs, so they are very experienced coming in,” Valente said. “Stafford is quick and very smart. We’re really excited about her coming in. Chmielewski does a little bit of everything and she plays with a mean streak.
“I think both girls will be four-year varsity players. They’ll have their choice where to play in college. We are excited about what they’ll bring to our program.”
Trinty lost to Benet Academy 68-51 in the 4A state semifinals last season. Valente and the players believe another deep run in the postseason is possible.
“We’re deep and we have a ton of experience,” Valente said. “The thing with Trinity is that we always have great younger players that get a ton of varsity playing time early on. Even though we graduated two outstanding players in Aylward and McKenna, we won’t miss a beat with the girls we have coming in and returning.”