2007-12-14 / Sports

Kenel, Irwin Out To Prove That Tigers Still Have Bite

By Elio Velez

For anyone watching the Bishop Kearney High School Lady Tigers play in the last few years, it was easy to notice Maria Laterza on the court.

Laterza, who scored more than 1,000 points in her high school career, played a big role in the Tigers success.

But now that the 6-foot-2 center is plying her trade at Marist University, the 2007-08 Tigers team, led by Michelle Kenel and teammate Caitlin Irwin, are determined to prove to opponents that they will remain a tough team to defeat.

Irwin and Rockaway residents Kenel and Norah Marley, will be the three seniors needed to pick up the scoring, rebounding and leadership from their departed teammate.

Kenel, who plays with the Liberty Belles AAU team in the summer, says she is ready to pick up the slack.

"I have to be more of a scorer rather than like last year, when it was all spread out. It's more like Caitlin and I got to play good every game. We got to score, rebound and play defense," Kenel said.

Early wins over St. Dominic's and Canarsie this month have done much to improve the Tigers' confidence. Kenel says that will help when they face their Brooklyn/Queens CHSAA league opponents in January.

"The beginning wins will help us build our confidence when we start league play against Mary Louis, Molloy," Kenel said. "We will have the confidence to challenge them and not go in there with a negative attitude."

Her good friend Caitlin Irwin is adjusting to a new position at point guard. It's a tough adjustment, since she's never played the position while at Bishop Kearney, or with the New York City Heat AAU team during the off-season.

And Irwin is trying to get rid of the injury bug. Irwin broke her rightwrist early in June and missed the entire AAU season, which made her go antsy.

Irwins maintains a sunny disposition the last two years. Her sophomore summer AAU campaign was ruined with torn ligaments in her right ankle. But she's raring to go.

"This is my first year playing point guard and I've had to work hard on it," Irwin says. "I wasn't expecting it but whatever helps the team, I will do it."

Irwin has formed a strong partnership with Kenel on the floor, which will help the Tigers this year. They have played with each other since freshman year.

"We talk on and off the court. We're really good friends," Irwin said.

"I tell her to cut, she'll cut. She's there when I need her. She can make the shot when I need her to. I'm confident that when I give her the ball, she'll follow through with it."

Kenel says her teammates will have to pick up the slack. Kaitlyn Rose, Christina Hiltunen, and Marley must provide energy and lock-down defense this year to stay with their opponents.

She firmly believes they will hang tough this year.

"They have the experience. Christina Hiltunen, Caitlin Rose played a lot last year. They all put in 100% in practice and they're all playing well," Kenel said.

"We know we can look to them to score. I think a lot of teams think we're down. It's not going to be that way. We're going to be good this year. We just work so hard. We think the best kind of win is being an underdog."

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