Consistency is one of the most important aspects of achieving success in sports.
But familiarity is the next best thing.
Jack Blanch, a legend with over 300 wins, decided to retire as head coach of the Kenmore East girls’ basketball program in late September.
So, Les Simon stepped up and took the position.
Simon, who has been the junior varsity head coach for the past 13 seasons, brings the familiarity the program needs in order to continue their success.
“I’ve coached them, I’ve taught them, I know the system. I can serve them as a great role model and leader for them this season,” Simon said. “I can never replace coach Blanch; he’s a hall of fame coach, but I’m smart enough to keep the system he has in place while still being myself.”
The Lady Bulldogs are coming off one its most successful seasons in recent history as they went undefeated through Niagara Frontier League play in 2016-2017, before falling to Olean in the Class A2 semifinals.
“We know that we can win,” said Carianne McCarthy, a junior entering her third year on the varsity. “We have the potential of being good now we need to focus on being there for each other.”
Kenmore East loses another program legend this year as guard Kendall Mills is now playing at Buffalo State. Mills played a major part in the Bulldogs success last season with 17 PPG and became the school’s fifth player to score 1,000 career points. Mills also leaves a major leadership gap for Ken East.
Now it’s up to McCarthy along with seniors Serena Sordetto and Lexi Lagattuta to step up and fill that void.
“The word for this season is ‘teamwork,” McCarthy said. “Serena, Lexi and I have taken the lead the helping new people and getting ready for the season.”
Sordetto returns for a fifth season on the varsity after averaging 16 PPG in 2017. The 5’ 10” forward has already become the tenth all-time leading scorer in program history. The senior played almost exclusively in the frontcourt last year but will look to be more of a ball handler this year.
According to Simon, Sordetto is a great leader and versatile player that the Bulldogs will count on this year.
“She’s been a wonderful captain and elite player. She knows the system better than I do. The girls have really embraced her leadership,” Simon said. “She’s sort of a ‘point-forward’. The lines get kind blurred. You can bring the ball up and go down and post up. She can do everything.”
With Sordetto spending more time in the backcourt, McCarthy will be counted to carry the frontcourt.
“It’s definitely pressure but I know with help from my teammates it won’t be too difficult,” McCarthy said.
Simon is looking for Lagattuta to step into the point guard position so Ken East can freely move Sordetto around the court.
The injury bug has already hit the Bulldogs as three experienced players in senior Sarah Burhans and junior Lyndsay O’Brien and have been sidelined.
Kenmore East is expecting seniors Katia Weeks and Kiara Smith, junior Alexis Cummings and sophomore Jasmine Williams to play bigger roles this season.
The Bulldogs are excited about junior Victoria Sujka, who is coming from the JV. She is likely to be a major contributor this season.
Seniors Brooke O’Connor and Jordan McKenna, junior Sam Kelly and freshmen Arniece Wilkins and Savanna Root round out the opening day roster.
One thing that Simon is focused on is making sure that the family atmosphere the program has stays intact.
“In all the years I’ve been a JV coach the varsity as always been a family,” Simon said. “We still have a core returning from last year.”
The Bulldogs will open up the Tuesday night with a non-league game at Orchard Park. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.