Staples High's girls basketball team qualified for its 27th straight state tournament with its victory over Harding High School last week. That's quite an accomplishment by anyone's standards. It's even more rewarding for veteran coach Ed Huydic, whose team suffered devastating injuries to three seniors before the season tipped off.
"We started the season with no point guard and no starting center,'' Huydic said. "That makes for a most difficult task. We feel particularly proud of this group. They've developed real good chemistry. They've taken on the task of re-creating itself before we got into it."
Jess Coelho, a center who averaged double figures in points and rebounds last year, hurt her knee late in the season last year. She hurt it again during volleyball season and has not played at all this season. Point guard Julie Strickland suffered a knee injury during the soccer season. Shooting guard Julia Friedman has also missed all of this season.
Yet with an under-size and inexperienced lineup, the Wreckers have fashioned a solid 8-7 campaign with five games left in the regular season. At 7-6, the Wreckers are also in the chase for one of the eight playoff spots in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference . They probably need to win three more games, beginning Friday night against Danbury, to get into the league playoffs. "One always hopes and dreams and looks to make the FCIACs,'' Huydic said. "We think we can do it."
Staples has done it with balance. Senior Nicole Brill has been an inside force for the Wreckers. Remy Nolan and Erica Stein have shared point guard responsibilities. MK Vansant has contributed a critical component with her outside shooting, and Nicole Bunkovsky and Sydney Houseworth have made important contributions. "The ones that are playing now were junior varsity players last year,'' Huydic said. "We told them early in the season, 'You have to develop a varsity mentality real quick.' They were thrown into the breach and pushed like varsity kids from the outset this year."
Defense and a controlled offense have been Staples' signature. The Wreckers are 5-2 in games in which they have held opponents to 40 points or fewer. "We have to control the tempo and make each possession count,'' Huydic said. "There are days where we're going to be hot and everything goes in. I don't care if the game is the 30s or the 40s, as long as we have a chance to win."
Only Masuk, which has made the state playoffs for 38 straight years, has had a longer run than the Wreckers. Even though Staples will be competing again for Class LL title, that doesn't mean the season is over. Not by a long shot. "We hope to win a few more,'' Huydic said.
What do you think about Staples' 27-year run in the state playoffs? Start the discussion below!
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.