It’s been a long few months for sports fans in the Delaware Valley. The Eagles have largely stumbled out of the gates, the Flyers and Sixers are still building to the future, and the Phillies… well, they played too. If there’s one thing we need it’s a fresh start, and what better way to kick off a new year than with one of the staple traditions of the Greek community, the 2015 GOYA Basketball season.
By Mr. GOYA
Each year teams from around the region meet to compete in competition, in a spirit of fun and fellowship that has been a tradition since 1980. This year seven churches will be participating from the Greater Philadelphia region, and this year the competition looks to be closer than ever. As always I will be doing my best to provide coverage from each week’s action, as well as offering my own insights based on my years watching the league.
I will admit that I do not know everything about all the teams, and despite getting help from a few friends around the Delaware Valley, predicting who’s who going into week one is probably the hardest thing to gauge all year. For now, my preview article will focus on what I do know based on last season’s activity. I’m going to kill the key player element of my preview this year, seeing as how I got last year’s as wrong as I did. What I will do is offer my best insights and a championship prediction from both divisions. I hope you enjoy and I look forward to providing you the best coverage I can all year round. Let’s get started.
The girl’s division last season saw a lot of great action, as teams jockeyed for position all year round heading into the playoffs. For anyone who will recall last year’s season, however, it was really about two games: First the stunning upset of apparently-unbeatable Holy Trinity Egg Harbor by St. George Media in the semi-finals in Cherry Hill, and secondly the near-epic comeback from those same girls in the finals against St. Thomas, who held on to capture their first championship since 2009. The exciting thing about the girl’s division will be that in most cases a lot of the top talent remains, so we can look forward to another exciting and competitive year in the girl’s circuit. Let’s take a look:
St. Thomas Cherry Hill
For Coach John Pratzinakis and his girls last year was the final step up the mountain in terms of building a program back to prominence, as St. Thomas rode a balanced attack all season on their way to their second consecutive championship appearance, and first championship in 6 years. It is no secret that Maria Kokolis is the key to Cherry Hill’s success, but I give a lot of credit to her and her teammates for building around a total team effort offensively and defensively last season, as teams who focused in on the star guard found themselves beaten from every direction. This year, with top contenders nipping at their heels, the girls in red will have to continue that team chemistry and team-first play with Kokolis at the forefront if they hope to retain their title. St. Thomas will begin their championship defense, like their brothers, against St. Luke’s Broomall on October 25th.
St. George Media
It’s going to be tough to outdo a run as amazing as the one the girls from St. George put together last season, but Coach Alex Terris and his girls will definitely be up for the task. Star guard and team leader Corina Bourantas has graduated, but the girls from Media will return a lot of the key players from last year, including Alexi Terris, Christina Bourantas, and Francesca Hourican. Arguably one of the most complete teams in the league, the girls from Media will have another year to gel together in the hopes of making a championship push. In the past few years this team has started slow and peaked at the right time, but I think given the amount of experience they have as a unit we can expect a steady and confident bunch this season. St. George will kick off their season in week two against St. Demetrios Upper Darby.
Holy Trinity Egg Harbor
For the girls from the Shore, I’m sure being on the losing end of one of the more improbable games in league history is no consolation, as this star-laden team looked nearly unstoppable before stumbling in the semi-finals last season. Coach Lia Potiris has a lot to be excited about as she looks forward to this season for sure. As I said in the aftermath of that game last year and I will say it again here, that same team returns four of its five starters this season, including MVP-caliber guards Despina Lianidis and Aggie Potiris, and top young forwards Samantha Rhodes and Gina Nassar. Given that I think it is reasonable to say that the only thing that can get in the way of this team is itself this year, and given the chip they have to be carrying on their shoulder from last year’s disappointing exit, I would expect this to be one of the teams to watch this season. Holy Trinity will kick off their season this Sunday against Holy Trinity Wilmington in Delaware.
For the girls from the Northeast it was another step forward this season, as Coach Jim Contoudis’s girls made another great run into the postseason before stumbling in a hard fought game in the semis last season. Like the teams above them in the standings last year, the core of this lineup returns, with reigning MVP Francesca Bogiatzis and top forward Alexis Nakos at the forefront of a team that will be looking to breakthrough into the finals this season.
St. Luke Broomall
For Coach Chris Nikolos, this season will be about re-establishing the girls from Broomall as a top contender in the girl’s division, having come so close to a come-from-behind upset a year ago that would have placed them in the final four. This year’s team will be built around veteran leaders Maria Raptis and Zoe Nikolos, both of whom are top two-way players who can certainly lead a younger crop of girls with their inspired play. For the girls from Broomall it will be about seeing how well the younger crop of talent can be brought up this season. If the younger girls can catch on quickly, this is a team to watch as a sleeper pick this season. St. Luke’s will get their first taste of action this weekend against St. Demetrios.
St. Demetrios Upper Darby
Like their brothers, the girls from St. Demetrios were derailed by injuries last season, as top forward Irene Evangelopoulos was sidelined for most of the season. Without their top interior player, the girls from Upper Darby struggled, but there is lots for coach Amelia Economou and her staff to be excited about, as a healthy Evangelopoulos will be joined by top guard Stephanie Paras, in the hopes of rebounding this season. Height is a trait that is hard to come by, especially at the girl’s level, and with an elite center at their disposal this team could very well shoot up the rankings this season. St. Demetrios will take their first steps this season this Sunday against St. Luke’s Broomall in Wilmington.
Holy Trinity Wilmington
For the girls from Delaware, it was a tough first season back into the league, as the young group of girls faced some tough competition but battled hard all year long. Team leader Pauline Raisis has graduated, and will leave behind a very young group, but I think this team has a lot of potential. Let’s not forget this team won their first game last year against eventual league runners-up St. George Media, and I see no reason why they cannot turn some heads again this year. This team may be young, but with some time and a commitment to growing as a unit I think the future can be bright at Holy Trinity. The girls from Wilmington will have a tough test to start their season, as they face off against Holy Trinity Egg Harbor at home on Sunday.
Mr. GOYA’s Championship Prediction
In a league ripe with talent across the board, and older, experienced talent at that, I think a case can be made for most of the teams in the league this year as potential championship contenders. When I look at the top of the standings from last year, I do not see much turnover from the teams that finished in the top four, so it would be very tough for me to predict that one of them would be unseated at the top this year. Last year Holy Trinity looked unbeatable… until they were beaten. What better potential showdown in January would there be than to see a rematch of that epic game from last year? In the end I think they will be tested often, but I look to see the girls from Egg Harbor atop the league this coming season. Championship Prediction: Holy Trinity Egg Harbor.