Coaches, fans and players alike were giddy with anticipation for the start of the 2012-13 girls junior high hoops season at Western Wayne.
The school district now has a solid feeder program firmly entrenched and a stream of talented young players is flowing through the basketball pipeline.
Thanks to the teaching and coaching at those lower instructional levels, the Lady 'Cat program is taking off in a positive direction.
"We're very competitive this season," said Brian Coach Hodorawis. "Every time we step on the court, we give the other team a run for their money."
Heading into this week's road trip to Preston, the young Lady 'Cats boasted a 7-1 conference record.
Overall, Western Wayne's junior high girls team is 7-4 on the season.
The local lasses will close out the campaign with a home and away series with Wallenpaupack Area.
At the start of the current campaign, two girls in particular appeared poised to take the Lackawanna League by storm.
Hannah Roedel is an 8th grade point guard projected to run the offense for Coach Hodorawis. Sadly, she went down with a nasty knee injury early in the pre-season and was effectively lost of the year.
"That was a big blow," Coach Hodorawis said. "It took the girls awhile to get over that Hannah is our best ballhandler, so we had to juggle things around a little bit."
With Roedel out of the starting line-up, Western Wayne's emphasis moved from the backcourt to the frontcourt ... which, isn't such a bad thing when you have Devin Merritt in the middle.
Page 2 of 3 - Merritt is a 6' 1" center who dominates play in the post at both ends of the floor. Devin leads the team in scoring and rebounding and anchors the defense.
"She's a very good player," Coach Hodorawis said. "Devin is extremely tough to stop when she gets the ball near the basket. She is also one of the best rebounders out there."
Several other players also earned rave reviews from their mentor.
Caitlin Bagnick handled point guard duties in the game at Preston. She ran Western Wayne's offense efficiently, even in the teeth of a vicious Pirates press.
"Caitlin is very teachable," said Coach Hodorawis. "You only have to tell her something once and it sticks. She's grown so much this season."
Cheney Carroll is another player to watch for Western Wayne. A hard-working seventh grader, Carroll was asked to help out at point guard after Roedel's injury and responded well.
"Cheney has done a very good job," said Coach Hodorawis. "She lacked confidence at the start of the season, but she's come a long, long way since then."
Carroll was one of the Lady 'Cats bright spots in a lopsided loss at Preston. She tallied five points and played relentless defense.
According to Western Wayne's staff, Kaitlin Duda is the most improved player on the team. A seventh grade forward, Duda worked hard in the paint from opening tip to final buzzer.
"Kaitlin Duda just never quits," Coach Hodorawis said. "I think she's a real inspiration to all the other girls on the team."
Of all their wins so far this season, perhaps the biggest came on the road against Ding-Del.
"We played extremely well in that game," Coach Hodorawis. "That's a tough place to play and we went in there and won."
Page 3 of 3 - Western Wayne split a very competitive season series with Forest City. The Lady 'Cats only other loss came to Lackawanna Trail.
In Tuesday's game at Preston, Rachel Roberts led the way with eight points.
Kelly Devito chipped in with two, while Jessica Berger added one.
Score by Quarters...
WW (7-4) 3 6 5 2 - 16
PRS (13-1) 16 8 12 6 - 42