Thursday, January 24, 2008


My heart goes out to Farmington High girls basketball coach Russ Crist and his team, which has encountered more than its share of heartbreak.

Two years removed from their unbelievable run to within a point of the Class L state championship, the Indians are 3-10 after losing their fourth straight game Tuesday at Fitch-Groton.

Graduation socked the Indians by claiming Joelle Nawrocki (now getting minutes at Fairfield), Laura Burdick (scholarship to West Point where she's recuperating from injury) and Kristin Nissen. That is a natural progression, but misfortune has placed a series of speed bumps in Crist's driveway.

At the top of the heartbreak chart is Sara Sylvester, a highly regarded shooting guard who missed all of last season with post-concussion syndrome. She played in the first two games this season, and led the team in scoring in the opener against East Catholic with 12 points. In the very next game, she suffered a torn knee ligament and will miss her junior year.

As if the troops weren't depleted enough, a stomach bug ran through the team recently and put two starters and a top reserve -- center Chelsey Marsh, guard Ali Palmisano and "sixth girl" Michelle Truncali -- on the "physically unable to perform" list.

"We went to Fitch with eight girls; two of them never even dressed varsity before," said Crist, who has endured basketball's extremes in less than three years on the Farmington bench. "When it rains it pours."

Better days are coming for the Indians, and rallying for a tournament berth would surely help. They'll need to win five of seven. ...

Here's a question for the CCC to bandy about. Why would you schedule your girls and boys basketball games on the same night? Shouldn't you allow supporters of your schools' hoop teams to attend both boys and girls games by scheduling them on different nights?

The Northwest Conference has the right idea by staggering the schedule. Why should the student body, cheerleaders, parents, administrators and teachers have to choose between supporting the boys or the girls?

Last Friday for instance, Southington and New Britain teams were playing against each other at the same time -- the girls at Southington and the boys at New Britain. With attendance at games so much lower than it should be, why make it even more difficult? What about the parents who may have a sophomore on one team and a senior on the other? Shouldn't these kids get the chance to hear the cheers with all the great things their doing on the hardwood?

And here's another reason for scheduling reform, albeit a somewhat selfish one.

After tonight, The Herald will have covered the Plainville girls in six straight games. Parents and fans from other towns must wonder how that can happen when we have nine high schools with multiple sports in each town.

Credit athletic director John Zadnik and coach Lisa Mandeville with having the foresight to put together a unique schedule.

The Blue Devils played at Rocky Hill on Jan. 5, a Saturday night when our coverage options are few. They played Berlin on the following Friday, which is a game we like to cover because we have lots of readers in both towns.

On the following Friday, I watched as Plainville avenged an early season loss at Northwest Catholic. Then on Monday, my colleague Ryan Pipke was at Ivan Wood Gym for the St. Paul game.

Now it's Thursday and I'm heading for Middletown at Plainville in a few hours. Why? Because Plainville staggered its schedule this week, didn't play on the hoop-heavy nights of Tuesday and Friday, and played on nights when our options were limited. It's okay with me. I can't get enough of those foot-long dogs the PHS athletic backers grill up over there.

So if any of you athletic directors and coaches are interested in seeing more games covered by The Herald, schedule some more games on Monday, Thursday and Saturday next year. We want to be there for as many kids as possible but Ryan and I can only be in one place at a time on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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