Culver Girls Academy girls basketball preview

CULVER — Culver Girls Academy graduated four starters from last season’s sectional championship campaign.
Add to that the unique position of being a boarding school and the fact that players live hundreds of miles apart in the offseason, and it’s taking the Lady Eagles awhile to start gelling.
“We graduated four starters last year. That group, with the five seniors that graduated, accumulated 14 letters, so that’s a lot of experience to graduate,” said CGA head coach Gary Christlieb. “We’ve had to replace four starters. We’ve had three games so far and had three different starting lineups. We’re still trying to find our niche with everybody, but we’re starting to get there. I think we’re starting to gel a little bit as a group. It just takes us time to get there because of the nature of the academy and we don’t play together in a bunch of summer games and things like that. It just takes us a little longer to kind of get familiar with everybody and get used to them. But I think we’re starting to progress, we’re starting to find an identity, and some kids are starting to step up.”
While the Eagles lost a lot to graduation, they do return last season’s leading scorer and rebounder in athletic 6-foot-2 junior Andrijana Cvitkovic, who’s already put up double digits in each of the team’s first three wins in 2011.
Other returners to the team are 5-6 senior guard Lindsay Haller and 5-11 sophomore forward Victoria Christlieb — each of whom has also seen double figures twice already this year — as well as 5-4 senior guard Katie Gawor, 5-1 senior guard Andrea Lin and 5-8 senior forward Monique Novoa.
Four newcomers add to the mix in 5-4 junior guard Saralena Barry, 6-1 forward Pita Navarro, 5-9 junior forward Rita Zambon and 5-6 sophomore guard Alle Baker, who left the swim squad to join the CGA basketball team this year.
“We’re not as big as we were last year — we had great size last year — but I think we’re maybe a little more athletic and maybe have a little more quickness, so that I think is helping us,” said Christlieb. “It’s a group that does play hard, a good group of kids to work with, and they kind of have fallen in line with the tradition of the kids and it’s kind of a ‘man up’ type of thing, and they understand what’s expected of them.”
Those who are back with the team this year remember last season’s 16-7 Sectional 19 championship run — the program’s first in 14 years. It was an experience that left them hungry for more.
“They enjoyed the tournament experience last year, and they want more of it,” Christlieb said. “So I think that’s one of our goals is that they want to defend and repeat that sectional championship. If that’s going to happen we’ve got a long way to go, but I think that’s a great goal for this group to have. I think that they understand, particularly the six returners, what it takes to get there, and I think they’re doing a great job trying to get us that way.”