Friday, January 05, 2001

NewCath's climb continues

Thoroughbreds have come through losing to be favored

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer contributor

Nicole Chiodi
| ZOOM |
        Want to make the Newport Central Catholic girls basketball team mad? Call them “Lady Thoroughbreds.”

        NewCath - just the Thoroughbreds, thank you - started this week with a 7-2 record. They also are one of the favorites to win next week's Ninth Region All “A” tournament at Newport.

        “I think we're doing really well,” freshman guard Nicole Chiodi said. “We're working as a team.”

        And coach Christie McDonald concurs.

        “They finally believe they can play with any team in the area,” McDonald said.

        It's quite an accomplishment when you consider where NewCath was four years ago. In a word, the Thoroughbreds were awful.

        As in 9-18 for the 1996-97 season, McDonald's first year of leading her alma mater.

        As in an 8-16 nightmare the following year.

        “You didn't know what to expect,” senior center Amy Meyers said. “You were just there.”

        As in regular 20-point beatings by Highlands, Boone County and others.

        “It was very, very frustrating,” said senior forward Erica Ziegler, a freshman on the '97-98 team. “We had no confidence in our program. Freshman, year, I was doubting whether I should come back.”

        NewCath started to turn things around two years ago. The Thoroughbreds were 13-14, and they followed with last year's 15-11.

        The way Ziegler sees it, NewCath's turnaround is as much a matter of emotional maturity as physical.

        “When I got down in practice, I used to take it personally,” she said.

        Ziegler, Meyers, senior guard Maria Chiodi and sister Nicole Chiodi are successfully taking on their opponents.

        Nicole Chiodi leads the team with 12.7 points and 5.9 steals per game. Meyers and Ziegler are next in scoring at 12.4 and 12.3, respectively, Ziegler and Meyers are 1-2 in rebounding with 6.8 and 5.3, and Maria and Nicole Chiodi have 5.0 and 4.0 assists per contest.

        As a team, NewCath scores 64.2 points per game and gives up 48.

        And as NewCath has matured, so has McDonald. She said it's no problem if her players occasionally overrule her on strategy.

        “I know they know me,” McDonald said. “They have some of my responsibility. They make (an) adjustment without clearing it with me. A lot of times it's the right one.”

        Defending region champion Newport, Holy Cross and Newport are the teams most likely to battle for a berth in the state All “A” tournament Jan. 24-28 in Richmond. McDonald likes the way her team is playing in January, but ...

        “I don't want to say that we've peaked,” she said. “I like to think the best is yet to come.”

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