Spalding girls bounce back with fast start No. 7 Cavaliers face tough week

December 15, 1992|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,Staff Writer

Off to its best start in girls basketball, seventh-ranked Archbishop Spalding (5-0) may find out this week just how good it is.

Coach Paul Leimkuhler's unbeaten Cavaliers visit 15th-ranked St. Frances (2-1) at 4 p.m. today at Loyola College and play host to No. 6 and defending Catholic League champion St. Mary's (3-0) Friday at 8 p.m.

"I guess we've had an unexpected windfall at the top of our schedule," said Leimkuhler, who is coming off his first losing season (8-17) in the nine years he has been coach.

"Chesapeake [a 59-46 victory], Edmondson [58-32] and Coolidge [53-27] weren't as good as we thought they would be, and we also beat IND [Institute of Notre Dame] and Mercy, two teams always tough in our league."

Spalding opened with a 51-43 victory over now-unranked IND and defeated No. 8 Mercy, 60-47, in its first two games. The first two games gave Leimkuhler a good indication that his confidence coming into this season was warranted.

"Last year was the first losing season I've had here, but it was a great group of girls, and I was really looking forward to this season," said Leimkuhler, whose record is 129-85.

"Amy [Langville, senior point guard] is Amy, just an incredible kid who has become much more aggressive with her shots. But one girl, who has really come out like gangbusters is Kelly Mabe."

Mabe, a 5-foot-6 senior guard, teams with Langville, 5-9, to give the Cavaliers a potent backcourt. Langville, who signed before the season with Mount St. Mary's, is averaging 19 points and Mabe 14.

"Kelly injured a knee playing softball last summer and missed part of the volleyball season, but has really come on this basketball season," said Leimkuhler.

Mabe averaged 10 points last year, so her increased output has made a difference. She and Langville were named to the all-tournament team last weekend in the Greater Baltimore Women's Basketball Pre-Christmas Mixer at the College of Notre Dame.

Spalding riddled Edmondson and Coolidge of Washington in the tourney.

"It's not only been a case of Amy and Kelly growing up as players, but actually nine girls who have been together for a while. And from top to bottom, this is probably the best team I've had here," said Leimkuhler, whose top two teams previously were in back-to-back seasons in the mid-80s.

Spalding was 20-7 in Leimkuhler's second season in 1985-86 and the next year went 21-5 and won the Catholic League tournament championship. All-county first-team player Colleen Moreau (16.9) and third-team player Beth McMahon (11.0) anchored that team.

"But we've never won the regular-season title, and I think we have as good a chance as anybody this year because of our depth," said Leimkuhler.

Leimkuhler is able to complement Langville and Mabe with a guard from a rotating trio and has two capable inside people as well.

Senior Katie Meloro (5-6), junior Kari Thompson (5-6) and freshman Stephanie Paxson (5-9) rotate at the third guard or small forward position. Meloro has the experience, Thompson the speed and Paxson, whose older brother is three-sport star, Jeff Paxson, has the savvy and a bright future.

Senior Lisa Canter and junior Carrie Parsons, both 5-10, give the Cavaliers the necessary size under the basket. Parsons is averaging nine rebounds and Canter seven.

Leimkuhler, who was a faculty member at Spalding when he took the coaching position but has been employed by the National Security Agency the past seven years, cites not only the team's experience but its "experienced" experience.

"I think the fact that many of our girls are playing more basketball out of season and actually playing two or three sports at one time is showing in the caliber of player we now have," said the coach.

"More and more of our girls are playing summer basketball and AAU tournaments, and we are seeing the results. Of course, the parents go crazy driving them all over the place, but they know it's worth it."

It could be worth the girls' first Catholic League title because this team is ready to be counted among the contenders such as St. Mary's, Mercy, IND, St. Frances and possibly John Carroll.

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