After winning back-to-back Suffolk County and Long Island Class B Championships and establishing itself as one of the top squads on Long Island, the Southampton girls basketball team will have a different look this year, as nine of the team’s 11 players from last season have moved on.
Four starters—Kesi Goree, Paris Hodges, Cassidy Guida and Carley Guida—have graduated, along with Dominique Taylor, who also started on a regular basis and logged major minutes. The team also lost reserves Rashelle Baker and Kyra Richards to graduation, while another reserve, Natece Willis, moved out of the district, and backup guard Keynu Banks decided not to return to the team this year.
It’s not all bad news for the Lady Mariners, however, as they return arguably the best player in League VII and one of the top players in the county, senior guard Noelle Hodges. Hodges, an All-Conference player last year, is in her fourth year on the varsity and was the team’s starting point guard in the last few years. She’ll captain the team along with returning forward Sydney Katz, a strong post player who improved in leaps and bounds last year and saw her playing time increase.
Hodges and Katz will be the only experienced players among a bevy of newcomers, and head coach Richard “Juni” Wingfield said he expects both players, Hodges in particular, to take on a leadership role. This won’t be a problem for Hodges, according to Wingfield.
“I said to Noelle that I wanted her to bring her greatest asset, which is her enthusiasm,” Wingfield said. “The bottom line is that nothing is achieved without great enthusiasm, and when you have only two players who’ve played varsity basketball before, if you can generate that, then what follows is the willingness to work hard.”
In previous years, with standout players like Noelle’s older sister, Paris, and Goree—Paris Hodges is now playing at Brandeis University, and will be joined by her sister, Noelle, on the team next year, while Goree is at NYIT—Wingfield had a team that could put up points in a hurry, regularly surpassing the 50-point plateau. That won’t be the case this year, he said, which means the team will need to rely more than ever on defense.
Ten new players will join the varsity fold this year, all up from the junior varsity. Junior forward Caroline Ricca should see significant time, and Wingfield expects good things from her based on her success in other sports. Ricca is a standout player for the Southampton field hockey team, and played on both this year’s county finalist team and the previous season’s state finalist squad.
Sophomore Saimona Ward and junior Caitlyn Pressly will also battle for time in the frontcourt, while freshman Julia Dudley, who Wingfield describes as a “point forward” will make an impact. Junior Jacqueline Minoque should also see time as a forward/guard. Newcomers in the backcourt include sophomores Brook-Lyn Walker and Chloe Scheuch, who were the primary starting guards on the JV last year, as well as Pauline Delacruz, who Wingfield said is a decent shooter, and senior Celeste Syas. Wingfield also expects big things from freshman Margarita Trujillo, who was a standout player on the soccer team. “She’s going to get better and better every game,” Wingfield said of Trujillo.
Wingfield said he expects the competition in League VII to be tough, estimating that Hampton Bays, with a strong core of experienced players returning, will be the team to beat. He said Babylon and Mattituck will be near the top of the standings as well. While Southampton’s reign of dominance in the league isn’t likely to last this year, Wingfield said he still expects his team to be competitive.
“I think with Noelle Hodges, you don’t come off a year like we had and don’t think you’re going to make the playoffs,” he said. “I want these girls to work hard with the idea that their goal is to be a playoff contender.”
Southampton will open the season at William Floyd on December 4 at 4 p.m. for a non-league game and will host Stony Brook on December 9 at 4:30 p.m. in another non-league game. The Lady Mariners will open the League VII season at home against Hampton Bays on December 13 at 4 p.m.