HOLMDEL – Following the 2015-16 season which saw Saint John Vianney go 31-1,capture their 16th state championship, win their seventh Tournament of Champions title and finish ranked tenth nationally, last season was billed as somewhat of a rebuilding year – especially after graduating All-State guard and current DePaul University standout Kelly Campbell.
However, for the Lady Lancers it’s not so much rebuilding as it is reloading.
They still won 23 games a year ago and went 12-0 in the division to take the Class A Central title and were Shore Conference Tournament runner-ups losing to St. Rose, and Non-Public, South A semifinalists falling to eventual champion Red Bank Catholic, who went on to the Tournament of Champions semifinals.
Although they must replace first team All-Shore center Kimi Evans, who’s now getting playing time at Seton Hall University as a true freshman, the good news for the Lancers is they return three starters from that team and three others who have starting experience and saw sizable playing time, along with two freshmen who are expected to contribute immediately.
“It’s definitely a different team; we worked really hard over the summer,” said junior Sajada Bonner, who was a second team Class A Central selection a year ago. “And I feel like our team is going to be very good in transition. We do love each other and I think we have a better chemistry on the team this year so I think we’re going to have a really good year.”
Bonner, whose 8.9 points per game average was second on the team, will start at guard along with American University commit Maddie Doring (7.2 pts/game), who at 5-foot-11 adds size along with her proven ball handling and shooting skills.
There’s a lot hype behind Bonner entering the season with people quietly labeling her as a candidate for the Shore Conference Player of the Year award.
Already holding numerous DI offers, Bonner can drive to the basket, hit the jumper and is super on the offensive glass.
Junior Sarah Karpell is one of the best combo guards in the Shore and has given her verbal commitment to Fordham University. She’s back as starting point guard where she was a first team Class A Central selection last season after averaging 7.5 points a game. Karpell saw playing time as a freshman before nailing down a starting point guard spot last season when she developed into a true floor general while honing her all-around skills.
Senior Sarah Furch and 6-foot-0 junior Brelynn Bellamy will be the starting forwards and both are expected to take their game to another level this year after solid seasons a year ago.
The 6-foot-0 Furch – a West Point commit – has the ability to shoot three’s, post up or explode off the dribble and is a big-time rebounder, while Bellamy has size, athleticism and can flat out play, according to Lancers head coach Dawn Karpell.
Junior Rahmena Henderson transferred from Neptune a year ago and after a year in the program will add experience and depth at the point guard spot coming off the bench as the sixth man.
Incoming guards Katie Hill and Christine Whitehead are both expected to be impact freshmen.
The 5-foot-10 Hill is long and athletic with a varsity-ready jumper while the 5-foot-9 Whitehead’s quickness allows her to knock down jumpers while utilizing her athleticism.
Already playing in the toughest conference in the state, the Lancers are known for their competitive non-conference schedule and this year is no different with last season’s TOC champion Franklin and TOC semifinalist Rutgers Prep on their schedule on back-to-back days. They’ll also play Georgetown Prep (MD), University, St. Anthony’s (NY), Long Island Lutheran (NY), Christ the King (NY) and Christian Brothers (NY).
“Yea, definitely,” Bonner said when asked if she thought this year’s team is being somewhat overlooked. “I think we’re going to come up big this year but right now nobody knows it. It starts with how we work in practice and just how hard we work every day and when we get to the games we’ll worry about that.
The Lancers will still face some of their stiffest competition from within the Shore Conference ranks with Red Bank Catholic and Rumson-Fair Haven on its regular season schedule and St. Rose and Manasquan waiting for them in the postseason.
“We just take everything one game at a time, one practice at a time, one play at a time,” said Bonner. “It’s really an honor (to play for SJV) and when we put our jerseys on we know that this is really important and we do play every game for our school, but not only for our school but for our coach. She (Dawn Karpell) puts so much hard work into this program it’s really is an honor playing for Dawn. She’s amazing; the work and emotion she puts in is different from other coaches and she really is a mother figure to us.”
“#TOCORBUST, that’s our goal,” Bonner said.