By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The girls’ basketball team is officially back on the court and are ready to make some noise in the Cape Ann League.
Lynnfield concluded the 2013-2014 season with an impressive 16-5 record under first year head coach Bob Melillo. The locals qualified for the Division 3 North state tournament but the Pioneers were eliminated by Bishop Fenwick in the quarterfinals.
While the Pioneers graduated a number of players from last season’s squad, Melillo is optimistic about the upcoming season.
“We are inexperienced but I think we have a lot of potential,” said Melillo.
The Pioneers will be led by two captains this season, including senior center Emma Mancini. Mancini was named as a Cape Ann League All-Star after she averaged 15.4 and 10 rebounds last season.
“By all accounts, Emma has picked up her game,” said Melillo. “She was an All-Star last year and I think she is going to have a better year this season.”
Senior captain Toni DiCesare is going to play a major role in the Pioneers’ backcourt.
“Toni was our sixth person last year and could have been a starter,” said Melillo. “I think she is going to have a breakout year.”
Junior Kelly Look will be playing forward this winter and is going to serve as a defensive specialist for the Pioneers.
“We are looking for Kelly to guard the opposing team’s best player,” said Melillo.
Junior Abbie Weaver will be running the point for the Pioneers.
“Abbie has really improved her game,” said Melillo. “She has done a nice job distributing the ball in our scrimmages.”
Junior Olivia Costello will be a key reserve for the Pioneers.
“We are looking for Olivia to give us help off the bench,” said Melillo. “She knows how to shoot the three.”
The Pioneers have welcomed several new players this year, including junior forward Marie Norwood.
“Marie is new to the team and we are glad she came out,” said Melillo. “She is a good jump shooter and rebounder. She is going to be a nice addition.”
Senior Katie Scanlon decided to try out for the Pioneers for the first time she was a freshman, and Melillo said she is exactly the type of player the Pioneers need.
“Katie is a good athlete who has a feel for the game,” said Melillo. “She is a good defender, which is what we need off the bench.”
Freshman Marina McMahon has showed a lot of promise during the first couple of weeks of practice.
“Marina has the potential to be a really good player,” said Melillo. “She is learning the game and how to play man-to-man defense.”
There are four other freshmen who will be suiting up for the Pioneers this winter: Guard Julianna Passatempo, guard Lizzy Shaievitz, forward Emory Caswell and forward MacKenzie O’Neil.
“We have a nice freshmen class,” said Melillo.
Melillo said the Pioneers’ biggest strength this season will be its offense.
“We can score,” said Melillo. “We have two quality offensive players in Emma and Toni.”
While Melillo is optimistic about the locals’ offense, the defensive-minded coach has been emphasizing defense during practice sessions.
“Our defense is a work in progress but I think our pressure defense is going to be a strength of ours,” said Melillo. “The one thing I learned from Merrimack College basketball coach Bert Hammel is shooting is fickle but defense is consistent.”
The Pioneers traveled to Manchester-Essex on Tuesday, Dec. 16, taking place after deadline. Lynnfield hosts Charlestown on Wednesday, Dec. 17, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Lynnfield hosts Georgetown on Friday, Dec. 19, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The Pioneers travel to Amesbury on Monday, Dec. 22, beginning at 6:30 p.m.