STEUBENVILLE- Phil Casinelli can't wave a magic wand to make his squad taller, so he's focusing on the next best thing.
"Defense," he quickly replied when asked how his 2012-2013 Steubenville girls' basketball team can compensate for its lack of height.
"Offensively, obviously we are going to have good night and bad nights shooting the ball," said Casinelli, who is entering his eighth season at the helm. "Since we're not very big, we're not going to win many rebounding battles. So, we have to score a lot with our first shot.
"We focus on a lot on defense. We can't have off nights defending. We need to limit teams to one shot then get the ball out in transition. We need to make good decisions in the open court and hope our shots are falling. The key for us is winning on the defensive end."
Casinelli lost two starters, Hannah Meyer and Veronica Orellana, from last season's club which finished 13-8.
Six letter winners (three of whom were starters) return. Leading the list is junior point guard Emiley Masloski. As a sophomore, the 5-foot-6 Masloski averaged 17.3 points an outing, 2.6 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 1.7 steals. She earned first-team all-Ohio Valley Athletic Conference honors, second team on the Eastern District squad and honorable mention on the all-Ohio team. As a ninth grader, Masloski was all OVAC and special mention all-district.
"She's an extension of the coach on the court," Casinelli said of Masloski, who will serve as the squad's co-captain along with Mytia Baker, a 5-8 junior. "She knows the game well and makes our job as coaches easier. She does a lot of directing on the floor and is a vocal leader.
"The other girls respect her. She knows the game, works hard and is a great player. Her accomplishments at this point speak for themselves. We are looking for her to continue getting better every year."
Barker and junior Brittany Bodo, listed at 5-9, are the other returning starters. The remaining letter winners are sophomore Taylor Young, junior Dominique Wilson and junior Abby Taylor.
"It seems like I repeat myself every year when I say we are young and short," noted Casinelli, who has just one senior listed as part of his rotation. "But, every year we're still young and still short. It's been several years since we had a large group of seniors. Our juniors have been playing a lot so we have experience at the varsity level even though we are young."
Casinelli indicated his club goes a "good eight deep."
Dana Poole, a 5-8 senior, is back out for basketball and should help Big Red inside.
"We're looking for good things from Dana," Casinelli said. "She will be our presence inside and she definitely can help fill the void left by Hannah and Veronica."
Hanna Masloski, Emiley's freshman sister, will be in Casinelli's eight-deep rotation.
Joining Casinelli on the Big Red bench this season will be Mark Masloski, the school's former boys' coach, and Angie Forte, who directed the girls' team.