The Bunnell High girls basketball team opens its season tonight at home against an interesting opponent – Ledyard High of the Eastern Connecticut Conference.
The biggest problem confronting the Lady Bulldogs, who had a 10-12 record last year, is finding an inside replacement for Sha’quira Palmer, a Connecticut High School Coaches’ Association All-State player who averaged 18 points and 13 rebounds per game.
Palmer has taken her game to Western Connecticut State University, where she’ll play an integral part in that school’s program.
“We’re a team that will be looking to create its identity first,” said Marvin Tyson, who’s heading into his third year as head coach. “I’m hoping for steady progress early on and then even better play in the second half of the season.”
The Lady Bulldogs will seek to mold their game up front around three players – senior Lauryn Kostopoulos and sophomores Jillian Pastor and Shannon Hofmiller.
Kostopoulos averaged six points and five rebounds as a starter on last year’s team, which made the South-West Conference playoffs (losing to eventual champion Lauralton Hall in the first round) and the Class L tournament (where they dropped a first-round game to Daniel Hand of Madison, 72-62).
“Lauryn will give us a presence as a rebounder and she has very good defensive skills,” Tyson said.
Hofmiller, who started for the jayvee team, and Pastor are both six-footers. Kostopoulos is 5-8.
Jessica Bogdwicz, a 5-3 junior and an all-Colonial Division player, will start at point guard, where she averaged 13 points, seven assists and four steals per game.
The other guard spot is likely to be filled by Erin Koletar, a 5-6 junior, who Tyson says could very well become an all-conference player. As a sophomore, she averaged six points and three rebounds per contest.
Additional players who’ll figure in are Deja Fonseca, a sophomore, along with 5-7 senior forward Bianca Burgos and sophomore Rachel Mudre.
Tyson also has high hopes for freshman Caitlin Carrafiello, who, at 5-5, can play either forward or guard.
“We need to utilize our size,” Tyson said. “In some of our scrimmages we needed to box out better and need to do a little more work on our transition on defense.”
He feels that this team has the competitive nature to make the playoffs.
“We’re a group who should be in the mix most of the time,” Tyson said. “We could very well be a team that will steal a few games.”
The Lady Bulldogs begin their SWC schedule next week with games against Weston (Tuesday) and New Milford (Friday).
“Our conference is always tough,” Tyson said. “I’m expecting teams like Pomperaug, Lauralton Hall, Newtown, Kolbe and Brookfield to have very good seasons.
“We’ll need to get better to have a chance to beat them. Most of it depends on how much better we get as the season goes on.”