High School Basketball Season Preview: Mt. Pleasant Vikings

Vikings boys face adversity to begin season while the girls will be led by top returner Zelmore

Mon Nov 28, 2022 - 11:01AM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
Brayden Caletri and Tiffany Zelmore return to help lead the Vikings this season. (Photos by www.westernpasports.com)Brayden Caletri and Tiffany Zelmore return to help lead the Vikings this season. (Photos by www.westernpasports.com)

Last Updated: Tue Nov 29, 2022 - 2:35AM

Mount Pleasant Vikings Boys

Head Coach: TJ Kravits – 3rd season

Conference: Class 3A Section 4

Last Season: 3-19 overall – missed playoffs

Key Losses: Aden Wisnewski, Ryan Borkowski, Demetrio Sherbondy

Key Returners: Brayden Calietri, Yukon Daniels, Dylan Donitzen, Matt Shrum, Luke Rivardo

Promising Newcomers: Derek Donitzen, Robbie Labuda, Lemont Rogers, Nolan Harnish, Chase McCloy, Connor Pavlocak

Struggling to a mark of 3-19 a season ago, the Mount Pleasant boys basketball team dealt with plenty of adversity. Even before the first game of this campaign, the Vikings face more adversity, as leading scorer Dante Giallonardo is sidelined for the season with an injury.

The absence of their talented junior, combined with the subtraction of 20 points per game combined from their graduated seniors, will create a massive void to fill for the Vikings in 2022-23.

However, the Vikings have a large collection of upperclassmen on the roster, as the group returns seven seniors and four juniors. The senior group includes Brayden Calietri, Yukon Daniels, Dylan Donitzen, Derek Donitzen, Robbie Labuda, Lemont Rogers, and Matt Shrum. The junior quartet consists of Nolan Harnish, Chase McCloy, Connor Pavlocak, and Luke Rivardo.

Last season, the Vikings sat at 3-5 as the calendar turned to 2022, but they dropped their final 14 contests of the season. While Mount Pleasant edged South Park for a conference win early in the season, the Vikes dropped a narrow tilt in the second meeting with the Eagles, as well as competitive losses to Southmoreland.

A change in classification could provide some relief, as the Vikings drop from Class 4A to 3A, along with Yough. The new section foes for 22-23 include Brownsville Area, Charleroi, McGuffey, Washington, and Waynesburg Central. In addition to the Cougars qualifying for the postseason in 4A a year ago, the Little Prexies won their section, while the Falcons and Raiders also reached the playoffs.

While the Vikings have an early section test at McGuffey on Dec. 8, their nonsection slate is heavy on Westmoreland County adversaries, including Derry Area, Valley, Norwin, Southmoreland, and Ligonier Valley.

Mount Pleasant Vikings Girls

Head Coach: Scott Giacobbi – 18th season

Conference: Class 3A Section 3

Last Season: 8-14 overall – missed playoffs

Key Losses: Alli Bailey, Hannah Gesinski

Key Returners: Tiffany Zelmore, Riley Gesinski, Marissa Garn, Carly Smith

Promising Newcomers: Nina Province, Kayla Rumbaugh, Grace Arrigo, Morgan Gesinski, Carmella Spallone

For the past few seasons, every opponent of the Mount Pleasant Area girls had Tiffany Zelmore as the focal point of their scouting report. Zelmore, who averaged nearly 20 points and 8 rebounds as a sophomore, increased her averages to 20.8 points and 9.4 boards a year ago.

While Zelmore is expected to be a consistent force once again the Vikings this season, the rest of the roster is relatively unproven for veteran head coach Scott Giacobbi.

After going 8-14 a year ago, the Vikings graduated a couple of key components of their squad, Alli Bailey and Hannah Gesinski. Bailey, who has continued her career at Waynesburg University, averaged 5 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists per contest. Gesinski, who is a member of the University of Pitt-Greensburg soccer team, contributed 6.4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals per game.

Those absences could put even more focus on Zelmore, a 5-foot-10 forward. She’ll be joined in the lineup by three other returners – senior forwards Marissa Garn and Carly Smith, and junior guard Riley Gesinski. Of that group, Gesinski provided the most offensive punch last season, averaging 4 points, along with 2.1 assists. Smith added 2.3 points per game, while Garn’s biggest asset was on the glass, as she snagged 4 rebounds per contest.

The rest of the roster includes just two sophomores and three freshmen, all of whom are in contention for playing time. That group consists of sophomore guard/forward Nina Province, sophomore guard Kayla Rumbaugh, freshman forward Grace Arrigo, and freshmen guards Morgan Gesinski and Carmella Spallone.

After finishing in sixth in their section in Class 4A last campaign, the Vikings have dropped to Class 3A Section 3. Consequently, they’ll be pitted with Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Deer Lakes, Ligonier Valley, and Shady Side Academy. The Lancers made the playoffs in Class 4A a year ago, while the Buccaneers and Rams also dropped down after missing the postseason a year ago. Apollo-Ridge, meanwhile, bumped up from 2A after a postseason run in 2021-22.

Mount Pleasant Area has established goals to qualify for the playoffs and contend for the section title, with the hope that the team can peak in February.

“Run the floor and play tough, consistent defense,” Giacobbi added for the Vikings’ objectives.

Mount Pleasant Area softball head coach Chris Brunson is an assistant on Giacobbi’s staff.

Before beginning section play in January, the Vikings’ nonsection features matchups against Derry Area, Yough, and Southmoreland.