There was plenty of interest this offseason in Chartiers-Houston girls basketball coach Laura Montecalvo.
Why wouldn’t other schools want a highly successful coach?
In four seasons as the Bucs’ coach, Montecalvo has at least 18 wins every season, an 82-29 record and won a WPIAL championship.
Her answer to all of those inquiries was quicker than the success she had at the small Class AA school.
“For me, they weren’t really hard decisions,” Montecalvo said of the multiple coaching vacancies available since the end of last season.
“A lot of these kids waited their turn, showed up everyday and played scout-team defense. They were a large part of the reason why we were successful. I couldn’t imagine walking away from them and letting that bond be broken. I didn’t think that would ever sit right with me.”
Instead, she is plugging away no seniors, two juniors, six sophomores and six freshmen – many of which she coached throughout middle school – hopeful Chartiers-Houston can reach the heights it has the past four seasons where it made the PIAA playoffs each year. The past two seasons, the Bucs had their season end to Bellwood-Antis, losing in the second round in 2017 and the quarterfinals earlier this year.
The biggest change will be not having Observer-Reporter Girls Basketball Player of the Year Alexa Williamson. The four-year starter, who is in her freshman season at Temple, averaged 30.7 points and 14 rebounds per game. She is second in Washington County history with 2,213 career points.
The other starters to graduate were Jules Vulcano, Madison Simpson, Keaira Walker and Macy Mazutis.
“That group will always have a special place in my heart,” Montecalvo remembers of her first graduating class. “They proved a lot to themselves and their community. They accomplished so much. They gave me the belief that no matter who plays for us, what is thrown our way, if we continue to stay true to the beliefs we had when they were young, we can eventually reach that same level of play.”
A pair of transfers, sophomore Zameriah Edwards from Washington and freshman Dominique Mortimer from Upper St. Clair, will provide the Bucs with much-needed height.
Hannah Seige, the only person on the team with any varsity experience, is another starter. Keely Acor, a sophomore who last played basketball in sixth grade, adds a burst of athleticism that will find its way into the starting lineup.
“My expectation every day, being so young, is to see progress,” Montecalvo said. “As long as we are seeing progress, we know we are moving forward and in the right direction. It’s an adjustment. It’s a lot of going over things and teaching, not getting frustrated if they don’t get concepts quickly.
We are basing everything on that if we want to be successful, we have to play harder than everybody, win 50-50 balls, outrebound opponents and push the ball in transition,” Montecalvo said. “When you start over like we are this year, you reflect on things that you took for granted before. (Last year’s seniors) set a standard and left something for groups behind them to chase.”