The Villa Maria girls' basketball team is poised to make a deep playoff run.
Led by veteran coach Kathy McCartney, the Hurricanes finished second in the Catholic Academies standings at 11-2. Villa Maria plays Mount St. Joseph in the Catholic Academies semifinals on Sunday at La Salle College High School. The Hurricanes, who went 16-6 overall this season, beat Mount St. Joseph twice in the regular season.
St. Basil, the No. 1 seed, squares off against Gwynedd-Mercy in the other semifinal.
The Hurricanes are led by seniors Nicole Czyzewski, Haley Croft, Lizzie Walheim, Shannon Smith, and Kiera Broadhurst. The biggest strength of the team is a strong sophomore class comprised of by Paige Lauder, Jackie Ford, Morgan Warley, Myla Warley, and Maddy Ryan. Junior Julia Samar, junior Paige DeMutis, junior Abby Walheim, freshman Caroline Kirby, and freshman Carina Chieffo round out the roster.
Abby Walheim has committed to Villanova for lacrosse.
"We have a young group of kids who have had a fair amount of success this year," said McCartney, who has more than 500 career wins in her 29th season at Villa Maria. "They are a lot of fun to coach."
The bond between the players and coaches is special thanks to a few family ties. Abby and Lizzie Walheim are the younger sisters of assistant coach Kristen Walheim (Class of 2012). Morgan and Myla Warley are also sisters.
Kristen Walheim was a member of the Villa Maria team that won the Catholic Academies title in 2012. That team lost to Prep Charter in the PIAA Class 3A quarterfinals.
This year's team is looking to achieve similar success. The Hurricanes head into the playoffs ranked No. 3 in the District 1 Class 5A power rankings.
McCartney reminds her team that "it's more about the journey than the end result."