The Shaker girls basketball team is hoping a former Shenendehowa player can turn its fortunes around.
Shen grad Emily Caschera takes the helm for the Blue Bison this year after coaching one year at a New Hampshire high school.
The biggest thing is I have high expectations of the girls, just like I do with my students, said Caschera, who was also an assistant coach at the University of New Hampshire for four years. "If you have high expectations for your students and your student-athletes, then they know they have to live up to those expectations."
The team Caschera inherits from Chris Mazzeo is full of promise, even though it only managed two Suburban Council wins last year. Several players are back including seniors Eden Alexanian and Brittany Farron, junior Erica Houle, sophomore Adrienne Devine and freshman Lauren Woods.
"It's a great mix of some older players and experienced players but we also have five freshman and sophomores on the team, so we're young," said Caschera.
Caschera's biggest task is teaching her team how to play defense.
"We are looking to play a solid team defense, and that's something that is new to them and I think the area in general," said Caschera. "We're not focusing on who's got the ball. We're focused on playing solid defense in general, and if one of us is beat (to the basket), then the whole team is beat."
Caschera said the players are handling the adjustment to her style of play well.
"They've really been getting after it (in practice) and working hard," she said.
Whether Caschera's style equals more league wins is another matter. Shaker is in the Suburban Council North Division with the likes of Niskayuna, Saratoga, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake and defending Section II, Class AA champion Shen.
"I haven't been around the area for a while, so I don't know what the teams are like. From what I've heard, Shen and Bethlehem are supposed to be the top two teams based on what they have back," said Caschera. "We're going to approach every team the same way and try to make Shaker basketball more consistent.
"We are obviously looking to have more than two wins this season," she added. "It definitely takes time, but I can't say enough about these girls. They've worked so hard."
Shaker will get its first taste of Suburban Council action next Tuesday when it travels to Saratoga. The Blue Bison then host the Judy "Ma" Berkery Tournament Dec. 5 and 6 with Bishop Maginn, Nottingham and crosstown rival Colonie in the field.
"We are obviously excited about the season and we're going to try to turn things around," said Caschera.""