and Jason Winchell
For The Dialog
WILMINGTON – One of the best players in program history has moved on, but no one is feeling sorry for the Ursuline Academy basketball program, which again figures to be among the state’s elite. The Raiders get the 2015-16 campaign rolling tomorrow at 12:35 p.m. against National Christian Academy (Md.) at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., in the She Got Game Classic.
Coach John Noonan returns four starters from last year’s state champions. Seniors Kailyn Kampert and Alyssa Irons join junior Kryshell Gordy and sophomore Maggie Connolly. The likely fifth starter is Alisha Lewis, who made an impact last year as an eighth-grader and started after Irons was injured during the playoffs.
New talent includes freshmen Kayounor Wulah and Yanni Hendley-McCalla and sophomore transfer Olivia Mason, who, according to Noonan, is big, athletic and can finish.
“We’re really excited about the kids,” the coach said of the newcomers at a late-November practice. “Athletic, strong, physical, and good basketball players. It’s just kind of getting everybody used to what we do.”
Connolly, who is entering her third year on the varsity, is excited to have the new faces around.
“We have a lot of new talent. I think if we work together it could be a really good year,” she said. “It’s a lot of new plays they have to learn, new positions. We just encourage them and let them know that we’re here for them.”
Ursuline will play just six home games this season as they take on an ambitious schedule that includes several nearby tournaments, including the Diamond State Classic. They also have St. Elizabeth and Padua twice, Caravel, Sanford and Concord.
“There’s not many holes in the schedule,” Noonan said. “We hope to be a better version of ourselves come mid-January than we are today. They’re young kids. You have to remember that.”
Connolly said the team is trying not to look too far ahead. The ultimate goal at Ursuline every year is a state championship, but there is a lot of basketball between now and mid-March.
“Taking it game by game is really helpful to make sure we get to that goal,” she said.
Schedule (home games in CAPS)
12/12/15 vs. National Christian Academy (Md.) @ Woodrow Wilson HS (D.C.), 12:35 pm She Got Game Classic
12/13/15 vs. Bellarmine Prep (Wash.) @ Woodrow Wilson HS (D.C.), 2:15 pm She Got Game Classic
12/15/15 DOVER 7 pm
12/17/15 PADUA 7:30 pm
12/27/15 vs. Jamesville-Dewitt (N.Y.) @ St. E Center, 7:30 pm Diamond State Classic
12/29/15 vs. TBA @ St. E Center, Diamond State Classic
12/30/15 vs. TBA @ St. E Center, Diamond State Classic
01/05/16 ST. ELIZABETH 7:30 pm
01/10/16 vs. TBA @ Philadelphia University, Play by Play Tournament
01/14/16 @ Cardinal O’Hara (Pa.) 7 pm
01/17/16 @ Neumann-Goretti (Pa.) 12:40 pm Blue Star Tournament
01/29/16 @ St. Mark’s 7:30 pm
01/31/16 vs. Archbishop Wood (Pa.) @ Spring-Ford HS (Pa.) Blue Chip Showcase
02/02/16 @ Padua 7:30 pm
02/06/16 CAPE HENLOPEN 5 pm
02/09/16 @ St. Elizabeth 7:30 pm
02/13/16 ST. MARK’S 7 pm
02/18/16 @ Sanford 6 pm
02/20/16 @ Caravel 1:15 pm
02/23/16 CONCORD 7:30 pm