Centaurs pg 9 12-6-18

Stepping into the big time.
In a manner of speaking.
The Woodstock Academy Centaurs girls’ basketball team is making the jump into Division I in the Eastern Connecticut Conference this season.
It’s not exactly by choice.
The league recommended it due to the Centaurs success both in the league and in the Class L state tournament over the past couple of years.
“To be honest, I’m not sweating it,” said Centaurs coach Will Fleeton. “From the coach’s perspective, we have to play the game no matter who is on the other side. I try to live the same model that I preach to the kids, it’s something that is out of our control. We only deal with the things that we can control.”
It means that the Centaurs will now play the likes of Norwich Free Academy, New London, and East Lyme twice this year.
Oh and that is not the only leap of faith they are taking.
The Centaurs, due to their success in the state tournament and because Woodstock Academy is a school-of-choice will be playing in the Class LL state tournament.
“The positive side is that the (Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference) must believe we are worthy. We must have taken a few steps in the right direction,” Fleeton said.
Fleeton enters his fourth year as head coach of the Centaurs.
After making the Class L quarterfinals for a second consecutive year and a 17-7 record last season, he feels the team is headed in the right direction and may even be a step or two ahead of what he expected.
The trick will be to stay there.
Gone are leading scorer and rebounder, Jamie Woods, swing player Olivia Perry, guards Mackenzie Cayer and Kalianna Dingui, top reserve Ciri Miller and the most athletic player on the team last year, Madison Brennan.
“We lost quite a few,” Fleeton said with a shake of his head. “They were versatile; they played the position that was needed. They had other skills that they didn’t get to use because they sacrificed for the good of the team.”
That means that no one position was affected more than the other by the graduation losses, but all were affected equally.
“The biggest thing for us will be to see how we adjust to the varsity level style of play and adjusting to high-caliber opponents. If we make that transition well, it will make things easier. If the level of play means that we struggle, it will hamper us all season. The key is for us to adjust to all the changes because there is very little varsity experience outside of the returners,” Fleeton said.
Heather Converse and Katie Papp will have to hold down the inside as much as possible with Aislin Tracey, Kayla Gaudreau, and Mackenzie Eaton in the back court.
Fleeton is hopeful that junior Caroline Hamill can prosper at forward after knee surgery early last season that caused her to miss the majority of the year.
Fleeton also has some newcomers in guards Hallie Saracina and Mikayla Wilcox and forwards Linda St. Laurent and Rachel Lambert.
The offense generally ran through Woods in the past two seasons.
Fleeton expects that it will be more evenly distributed although it might be Converse’s turn to get more looks.
“I don’t want to say it’s ‘Converse time’ but she has sacrificed a lot the last three years and now she is coming into her final season. We want to make it a pleasant one for her and I think she is beyond ready,” Fleeton said.
After that, Fleeton needs contributions from everyone else, a team-type effort, both offensively and defensively.
He calls Eaton and Papp “critical” to the team’s success.
“Katie is coming off an (ankle) injury. She was out most of the year. There were high expectations, but unfortunately, she missed most of the time to prepare herself for this year. We’re hoping for good things from her,” Fleeton said.
The coach believes Tracey is ready to contribute more as is Gaudreau.
Something else the senior group that left took with them was the majority of the leadership of the team.
The Centaurs do have some different out-of-league opponents this season.
There will be no Centaurs Christmas tournament so the girls’ team will be playing East Greenwich (R.I.) on Dec. 27 and New Britain, a Class LL program, on Dec. 28.
“I don’t know what we’re facing there (with New Britain), but I expect them to be a quality team. Maybe that will help prepare us for some of the (LL) opponents that we will face as well as the ECC schedule,” Fleeton said.
Other non-conference opponents include Longmeadow, Mass., whom the Centaurs will play twice, East Hampton and Wethersfield. The goal this season is not based on wins-and-losses to start, but rather, to establish themselves.
Girls’ basketball schedule:
 Dec. 14:            at Plainfield                 7 p.m.
 Dec. 19:     vs. Bacon Academy           7 p.m.
 Dec. 21:            at Fitch                        6 p.m.
 Dec. 27         vs. E. Greenwich (R.I)          1:30
 Dec. 28:            vs. New Britain           4 p.m.
 Jan. 4:    vs. NFA                       7 p.m.
 Jan. 7:       at Longmeadow )            7 p.m.
 Jan. 8:            vs. Waterford                  7 p.m.
 Jan. 10:         vs. New London              7 p.m.
Jan. 12:          at Bacon Academy          7 p.m.
 Jan. 15:          at East Lyme                  7 p.m.
Jan. 17:         at Ledyard                       6 p.m.
 Jan. 23:      vs. Longmeadow           4:30 p.m.
 Jan. 24          vs. Stonington                 6 p.m.
 Jan. 28:           at New London             7 p.m.
Jan. 31          vs. Lyman Memorial        7 p.m.
 Feb. 2:           vs. East Lyme                  1 p.m.
 Feb. 6:       vs. East Hampton              6 p.m.
 Feb. 8:              at Wethersfield            7 p.m.
 Feb. 12:   at NFA                          7 p.m.

Marc Allard
Sports Information Director
The Woodstock Academy


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