Visitation basketball eyes ISL and state crowns as team reloads

The Cubs are coming off their 11th straight league championship and are hoping to be even more dominant this winter. (Brian Kapur/The Current/November 2017)

Coming off their 11th straight Independent School League championship and fourth consecutive appearance in the D.C. State Athletic Association title game, the Visitation basketball team isn’t rebuilding. Rather, the Cubs are reloaded to make another run at both crowns.

“This team is very talented,” senior point guard Julianne Greenville said. “I think we’re more talented than we have been in the past. We are very athletic, and we have all of these different athletes from different sports.”

The graduation of five of the team’s seniors — including standouts Maeve Carroll, Sydney Love-Baker and Cristin George — has placed leadership roles on Greenville and her co-captain, junior forward Ellie Mitchell.

“It’s a big step up,” Mitchell said. “It will be a great opportunity for us to lead the team. We have learned so much from our past captains, and we can’t wait to get to do the same.”

Visitation showed off its talent in a scrimmage against Walt Whitman. (Brian Kapur/The Current/November 2017)

Cubs coach Mike McCarthy is very optimistic about the team’s prospects, thanks to the growth of the returning players.

“Julianne looks good out there,” said McCarthy. “Claire Burke is a lot better than a year ago. Ellie and Taylor [Webster] look two or three years older. I really like our team. We are deeper and have a lot of options.”

The team also has seen progress from junior guards Emily Sheehy and Senam Adeze, the coach added.

The biggest improvement has come from Mitchell. The three-sport athlete — who also suits up for the Cubs’ lacrosse and tennis teams — dropped travel lacrosse and has put more of a focus on basketball, including playing on the Amateur Athletic Union circuit. The extra commitment has already shown results, according to McCarthy.

“She isn’t seven months better — she’s more like two years better,” McCarthy said. “She gets better all the time. She is so much more skilled to go along with her high motor and athleticism. She has really matured.”

In addition, the Cubs added freshman Blaise Castro, who stands 5 feet 10 inches tall and has already caught the team’s attention as a guard.

The team hopes to capture a triple crown — the ISL regular season, the league’s tournament and the DCSAA bracket. (Brian Kapur/The Current/November 2017)

“Blaise is doing really well,” said Greenville. “She’s going to be interchangeable at the three or four. As a freshman she is very confident and smooth. She can take it inside and shoot jumpers.”

Senior Megan Nayak, a standout on the soccer pitch, is also new to the roster. “She didn’t play a year ago and she’s our best soccer player here and she helps us a lot,” McCarthy said.

With four players who are at least 5 feet 10 inches tall, the Cubs’ suffocating full-court defense can befuddle the opposition.

Visitation unveiled the look in a scrimmage against Walt Whitman on Nov. 21 when they took an 18-0 lead with three seconds to go in the opening quarter.

“We want to get the game going fast, put a lot of pressure on and wear them out,” said McCarthy. “If we don’t get the turnover, they have used 15 seconds and don’t have much time for offense.”

It’s a scheme that the players enjoy playing.

“It’s a lot more fun especially when we are succeeding in it and getting tips to create scoring,” said Mitchell. “It is great to see our hard work paying off.”

With a mix of talented returning players and an influx of new talent, the Cubs believe they are in position to chase a triple crown — the ISL regular season, the league’s tournament and the DCSAA bracket.

“Bullis is always solid and Holy Child is very good [in the ISL],” said McCarthy. “We have to bring it every night. Last year we didn’t have as much margin for error. This year’s team might be the most athletic one I’ve had.”