Girls Basketball 2017-18: Stamford The Favorite Over A Balanced Field Of Contenders

Stamford’s Alexa Kellner is considered by most the FCIAC’s top returning player. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

FCIAC girls basketball has continued on an upward trajectory, with better players and stronger teams. Two of the last three Class LL champions have come from the conference, and Trumbull made it to the final in March. There have been different league champions each of the last four years.

Predictions this winter are as tricky as ever. Almost everyone views Stamford and Trumbull as the top two teams. The Black Knights have the most experience.

After that you can roll the dice trying to forecast the next eight to 10 teams. We left Norwalk off the sleeper list, and it could easily get one of the top playoff spots. Are we putting too much trust in Ridgefield, which has lost almost all of its main contributors?

The guess is we will be called out for these picks in two months. For now, here is what we see in the hazy crystal ball.

The Favorite

Stamford. Unlike recent seasons, when there has been a legitimate debate about a preseason favorite, the Black Knights seem to be everyone’s choice, and for good reason. They have the most returning players after losing in the FCIAC final to Trumbull and eventual champion New London by two points in the Class LL quarterfinals.

Alexa Kellner is viewed by most as the conference’s top player, and she is more effective because of a good supporting cast. The Black Knights will be strong in the backcourt with Brooke Kelly and Megan Landsiedel, while Andrea O’Connor provides a solid inside presence.

After winning league and state titles two years ago, Stamford is hungry to get back to the top.

The Contenders

Trumbull. The Eagles are coming off a dream season, winning the FCIAC title and getting to the state final. They were hit hard by graduation losses, and replacing Claudia Tucci and Taylor Brown will be difficult.

Trumbull still comes in highly regarded because there are solid players ready to grow with bigger roles, the defense will continue to be a strength and Steve Tobitsch is one of the more highly regarded coaches.

Julie Keckler will be the Eagles’ go-to player on offense, and Aisling Maguire is another returning starter. Brady Lynch played well off the bench and Tobitsch has a lot of depth to mix and match rotations depending on the situation.

Julie Keckler is Trumbull’s top returning player. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

Wilton. The Warriors missed out on the FCIAC Tournament by a game last year but may be poised to make the biggest climb. Claire Gulbin averaged 14.5 points and scored in double figures in 20 of 22 games. She should have an even greater impact.

Emily Tuin and Caroline Sweeny, the team’s other captains, are also experienced. This is a veteran team ready to take the next step, which may end up being a leap. One player to keep an eye on is Taylor Floyd, the goalkeeper on the Warriors’ soccer team, who is returning to the sport and could be an presence inside.

Ridgefield. Caroline Curnal just finished a remarkable run of being named All-State in three different sports in consecutive seasons. As she tries to extend the streak, she is in an unusual position: the lone upperclassmen on the Tigers’ roster.

Curnal, who averaged 14 points, 12 rebounds and 4 steals, will no doubt have constant company in the way of opposing defenses until some of the younger players establish themselves. Fortunately, they come with strong reputations. Megan Klosowski and Kate Wagner are two guards to keep an eye on.

The Sleepers

Darien. The Blue Wave have a new coach but one of the league’s strongest 1-2 punches in Chrissie Fiore and Katie Ramsey. The team finished 6-10 in league play but has the potential to position itself for a playoff spot

Danbury. The Hatters returned to being a force after a few uncharacteristic off seasons. They may not yet be back all the way to a dominant power, but are a team to keep an eye on. Susana Almeida is an elite talent, and there are a number of promising players, including her twin sister, Sabrina, Emily Grenier, Ty’Lynn Ith and a good collection of underclassmen.

Caroline Curnal is Ridgefield’s lone upperclassmen. (Photo: Austin Carfi)

Staples. Paco Fabian was named Coach of the Year after leading the Wreckers back into the league playoffs. Arianna Gerig and Elle Fair were named second team All-FCIAC, and Staples has a rotation of four seniors to round out the lineup. This is a team that probably won’t need to scramble for an FCIAC Tournament spot.

Predicted Order Of Finish

1. Stamford

2. Trumbull

3. Wilton

4. Ridgefield

5. Danbury

6. Darien

7. Staples

8. Norwalk

Preseason Honor Roll

ALL-FCIAC

Caroline Curnal, Ridgefield

Chrissie Fiore, Darien

Julie Keckler, Trumbull

Alexa Kellner, Stamford

Kim Kockenmeister, Greenwich

TEN TO WATCH

Susana Almeida, Danbury

Elle Fair, Staples

Arianna Gerig, Staples

Claire Gulbin, Wilton

Brooke Kelly, Stamford

Iyanna Lops, Trinity Catholic

Olivia Parisi, Fairfield Warde

Bridget Paulmann, Fairfield Ludlowe

Katie Ramsey, Darien

Ashley Wilson, Norwalk

The Lineups

Danbury: Starters — Emily Grenier, Cartrina Sullivan, Sabrina Almeida, Susana Almeida, Ty’Lynn Ith. Bench — Demia Moore, Tanisha Cunningham, Emily Rojas, Christine Sangphet, Emma Sullivan, Azariya Baptiste, Melody Dayrit, Tianna Rogers.

Darien: Chrissie Fiore, Katie Ramsey, Hailey King, Gwen Dolce, Hassanna Arbubakkr, Lindsey Dimonekas.

Fairfield Ludlowe: Starters — Bridget O’Leary, Erin O’Leary, Bridget Paulmann, Paige O’Connell, Amanda Schramm. Bench — Ira Boci, Julia Colica, Trish Carey, Anna Paulmann, Emma Torello, Callie Cirilli , Juliet Bucher.

Fairfield Warde: Starters — Olivia Parisi, 8 ppg, 6 rpg, Libby McKenna, Krisrina Krasniqi, Caroline Aufiero, Cat Allison, Ava Fitzpatrick, Alyseha Henry, Toni Lamparski.

Greenwich: Starters — Kim Kockenmiester, Julia Conforti, Michelle Morganti, Tess Lamhauour, Taylor Stamos.

Brien McMahon: Tatiana Arias, Kassandra Scott, Angelica De Los Santos, Tiffany Scott, Jescie Holmes, Shaniya Francis, Beverly Rosiclair, Shaniya MescilienJocelyn Lister and Stephanie Skidmore.

New Canaan: Karlie Bucci, Jane Charlton, Leigh Charlton, Reilly Krug, Maeve Selvaggi.

Norwalk: Starters — Ajsa Vega, Dina Diblasio, Ashley Wilson, Sanaa Boyd, Naeva Renee, Belinda Hunte, Anaijah Morgan, Carsyn Langhorne, Grace Potochney, Jakara Murray, Jessica Parker. 

Ridgefield: Starters — Caroline Curnal, Megan Klosowski, Kate Wagner. Bench — Bella Giordano, Sabrina Grizzaffi, Cameron McClellan, Emma Klotz.

St. Joseph: Katherine Zito, Kaitlyn Capobianco, Tessie Hynes, Elena Ball, Emma Elrod, Sarah Johnson, Allison Krekoska, Rahmia Johnston.

Stamford: Alexa Kellner, Andrea O’Connor, Brooke Kelly, Megan Landsiedel, Kelly Jagodzinski, Jessica Nelson, Claudia Moses.

Staples: Starters — Arianna Gerig, Elle Fair, Nicole Dienst, Amanda Troelstra, Sophie Smith, Isa Didio.

Trinity Catholic: Iyanna Lops, Molly Murray, Caitlyn Scott, Kiera Fenske, Kayah Nowlen, Emma Garner.

Trumbull: Starters — Julie Keckler, Aisling Maguire, Brady Lynch. Bench — Jessica Lipinski, Meghan Lesko, Kelly O’Leary, Krystina Schueler, Gianna Ghitsa, Bella McCain, Jenna DeSabella, Maeve Hampford, Cassie Barbato, Allie Palmieri.

Westhill: Starters — Grace Hansen, Samantha John-Folkes, Meaghan Lavelle. Bench — Nia Holley, Grace Tufano, Tamar Bellette.

Wilton: Starters — Claire Gulbin, Emily Tuin, Caroline Sweeny, Elizabeth Breslin,  Lauren Robertson. Bench — Kaitlin Reif, Maddie Burke, Zoe Rappaport, Nancy Lynch, Taylor Floyd, Sophia Strazza, Isabel Casiraghi.