By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
2nd year at Rootstown; 4th year overall
17-6 at Rootstown; 30-29 overall
• Coaching Staff: Brian Layton, assistant; Thano Kapolis, assistant; Angela Gibson, JV; Erica Moore, JV.
• 2022-23 Record: 17-6 overall; 8-0 Portage Trail Conference.
• Returning Letterwinners (7): Brooklynn McIntyre, sr.; Porter Smith, sr.; Melanie Plecko, sr.; Abby White, sr.; Nadia Lough, jr.; Sasha Nichols, jr.; Addy Germann, jr.
• Letterwinners Lost (3): Kylie McColloch, Lyndsey Smith, Aubrey Kline.
The Rovers enter the season in a good position, with four returning starters — and more contributing role players — for a team that has won back-to-back PTC championships.
Like all teams, though, head coach Joe Leonard’s top priority is keeping his team healthy.
“Last season, we had several injuries that we certainly hope to avoid this year.”
There is depth and versatility throughout the backcourt for the Rovers.
White, Plecko, Smith, Germann, Nichols, junior CVCA transfer Kelsey Bittecuffer and sophomore Colbie Curall all will be featured in the rotation throughout the season.
They all bring defensive intensity and all bring offensive components to their game, as well.
“Melanie is a quick guard that handles the ball really well and she might be one of the team’s best defensive players. Abby is a fastbreaking wing that can shoot the 3 or drive to the basket and is also one of the team’s best passers.
“Porter has really improved on her driving and finishing. Addy is a long-range shooter that is only getting better.”
Nichols specializes in getting to the basket on dribble-drives, but is also good defensively to help jumpstart transition offense.
Bittecuffer began playing for the Rovers as a youth player before transferring to CVCA and now returns to the program. She is a plus-shooter and can get to the basket.
Curall came on strong last season as a freshman. She is an athletic player that can score.
Kayla Nicholas, Cloe Bengston and Jamie Kopac will all be pushing for playing time.
The Rovers boast one of the strongest frontcourts in the county, with McIntyre and Lough leading the way.
McIntyre is a physical post player, who spent a lot of time over the summer and throughout the fall, working on her game to prepare for her senior season.
Lough, who is approaching the 1,000-point milestone in just her third season, has not stopped working either. She has spent time improving her outside shot and finishing around the rim.
McIntyre averaged 9.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last year. Lough’s numbers included 14.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.6 steals per game.
Cloe Bengston, soph.; Colbie Curall, soph.; Jamie Kopac, soph.
“We must stay healthy. This group is hard working and the chemistry is really good. We must stay focused as a team and good things will come our way.”
“We are back-to-back conference champions. Southeast and Mogadore are always tough, and I believe both Aquinas and JFK will be much improved. Lake Center Christian beat us two years ago, so they always have our attention.”