Expecations high as Comets reload

Andrew Little | Sports Editor

Reload, not rebuild. That’s the plan for the 2021-22 Mason Comets girls basketball team.

Despite losing four starters from last season’s district championship team, the Comets have hopes to reach even greater heights this season with some new additions.

Gone are point guard CC Cary, forward Marilyn Popplewell, shooting guard Riley Cosimi and star guard Margo Mattes, who moved out of state.

Kyla Oldacre is the only returning starter and the team’s lone senior. Normally losing significant talent would mean a rebuilding year for most programs, but that is not the case for the Comets.

The 6-6 Oldacre, who will attend the University of Miami next year, has already served notice that she can be relied on this season. She’s averaging 15.8 points per game and nearly nine rebounds a while maintaining an intimidating presence on the interior for the Comets on both ends of the court.

The team got a big boost with the return of 6-2 junior forward Gabby Razzano, who played significant varsity minutes her freshman basketball season. A knee injury kept her off the court her sophomore year.

Razzano’s return adds an upperclassman with varsity experience who can take on some of the leadership responsibilities typically held by seniors.

Amanda Barnes returns for the Comets. The junior forward made significant contributions a season ago as a spot starter. Now a full time member of the Comets’ starting five, Barnes gives the Comets an experienced player who has an excellent grasp of how the game should be played. A solid defender and crafty rebounder, Barnes can also score. In a December 11 win over Oak Hills, Barnes led the Comets in scoring with 15 points.

Two new faces on the Comets’ roster this year are freshman Madie Parish and junior Carly Prows.

Just a freshman, Parrish has already shown flashes of brilliance. The 5-11 guard has scored in double figures in three games and is averaging nearly four assists and nearly three steals a game.

Despite being the youngest player on the team, Parrish’s skills have not gone unnoticed by her older teammates.

Razzano said that Parrish’s athleticism and versatility helps give the Comets another significant presence on both ends of the court as a scorer, ball handler, and strong defender.

“Parrish is going to have a really big impact,” Razzano said. “She’s really athletic and can help us on both offense and defense”.

Parrish said that she knows that her job as a freshman is to help contribute to the team in any way possible.

“My goal is knowing my role for the team and to produce as much as I can,” Parrish said.

Junior Carly Prows transferred from Ursuline Academy and has flung herself into the starting frontcourt alongside Razzano and Oldacre.

Even though she’s new to the team, Prows has blended in well and already has made significant contributions to the Comets lineup.

“Even in our first scrimmage we had really good chemistry,” Prows said. “The way we practice has transferred so well. We’re just building off of each game. The chemistry is [already] there.”

Prows has started every game for the Comets and is currently averaging eight points, 3.2 assists per game, and nearly six rebounds a contest.

Both players not only had to get accustomed to a new school, but also learn new plays and schemes. Parrish said that their shared experience of being new to both the school and team has allowed them to grow close, and made their adjustment much easier on and off the court.

“We have that teammate bond and connection,” Parrish said. “We talk about how we both transferred in from different schools and the changes in the atmosphere of the team.”

With Parrish and Prows, the Comets are gaining two versatile players who give the Comets a great deal of line up flexibility.
At 6’1, Prows said her positional versatility has allowed her to make an immediate impact on the floor. A strong inside presence, Prows has also shown she can knock down the three point shot, shooting 35.7% from behind the arc this season.
“I do think I’m filling in some big roles here. I’m the player that can fill several different positions,” Prows said. “Wherever the coaches need me, that’s where I’m going.”

The loss of four solid players who also had tremendous leadership skills could have been concerning for Head coach Rob Matula but he has hopes that some of the newcomers along with the returnees step into those vacated leadership roles.
Matula said that with only one senior, he is counting on some of the younger players to take more of a leadership role in addition to stepping up on the court.

“The biggest thing we lost with those four players, besides their production on the court, is their leadership,” Matula said. “We are hoping that Kyla learned enough from them to be our main leader, but we are going to need many more to step up [and have] ‘voices’ on the court.”

With the losses of Mattes and Popplewell, the Comets lost nearly 30 points a game in scoring.

Before her move, Mattes was expected to once again carry the scoring load for the Comets this season. Her move to Boston last summer left an unexpected hole in the backcourt. Losing a top player like Mattes normally would be cause for concern, but due to the team’s depth, the high expectations remain the same. Matula said with the additions of players like Parrish, as well as returning depth players expected to play larger roles such as sophomore Presley Daniels, the team can match that production and have another deep playoff run.

Some players who have yet to really establish themselves on the varsity who Matula believes will make an impact once they gain more confidence and feel more comfortable include guards Bradyn Johnson, Becca Sanders, Payton Black and Joy Resig, and forward Lillian Ehlers.

“When you lose a player of Margo’s caliber both offensively and defensively, there will be some impact but with additions of new players, I think we can level the void,” Matula said. “With our depth of players back from our system, we should not miss a beat in our attempt to win a state championship.”

Every team experiences adding and losing productive players but often the results on the court fluctuate depending on the state of the program in a particular year.

The Comets are a rare team that consistently expects to be one of the top teams in the state. Matula said that while adding players such as Parrish and Prows will help the team get closer to their lofty goals, his expectation and standard for excellence has not changed.

“Our expectations remain the same year-in and year-out,” Matula said. “Our motivation is to represent our program, school, and community with the way we play and act. If we play hard and do what we do best, we will have a chance to win games and hopefully make a deep run in the tournament.”