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W.VA. PREP BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Roberta Olejasz Set to Lead Wheeling Central Girls

WHEELING — For the first time in 28 years, there will be a new face leading the Wheeling Central girls’ basketball team into action.

Roberta Olejasz takes over the reins from Penn Kurtz, who decided to step down.

In his 28 years at the helm, Kurtz led the Knights to 25 state tournaments. Olejasz was an assistant coach on last year’s squad and is in the Wheeling Central Hall of Fame.

As a player, she netted 996 points and was named to the all-state first team twice before graduating in 1990.

Now, in her first year, she must guide her alma mater through the rigorous Class AAA after making the jump this offseason from Class A. It won’t be easy but her team isn’t backing down.

“It’s going to be quite interesting for us, but the Maroon Knights never back down from a challenge,” Olejasz said. “We play some of the teams in our region and section this year, so we’ll get an early look.”

Along with making the jump up two classes, the Knights will have to fill the roles left behind by a trio of Division I players.

Eden Gainer, Hannah White and Kaylee Reinbeau all went on to continue their basketball careers at the DI level after leading the Knights to the state tournament and an OVAC 2A title a season ago.

“Last year’s seniors were true leaders,” Olejasz said. “The loss of Eden Gainer, Hannah White and Kaylee Reinbeau — that’s a lot of points and huge shoes to fill but we have three good seniors in Tristen White, Marissa Horan and Alexis Mills who are stepping up as leaders for us.”

Tristen White stands at 6-foot-1 and will provide Central with strong post play this year.

“Tristen has always been sitting there ready to step into that role as the 5 and now it’s her time to shine,” Olejasz said. “She has really developed her game and has all the post moves that are necessary for her to be able to do what is necessary. She is really aggressive and she is a tough player who can rebound the ball. She is the whole package and we’re really looking forward to seeing her step into the role and lead the bigs on this team.”

Mills can also provide a strong presence under the basket.

“Alexis Mills is also a 6-footer on the other block,” Olejasz said. “She’ll be big in grabbing rebounds and putbacks for us.”

As for Horan, well she showcased her skills last year in the OVAC semifinal, sending the Knights past Shadyside with a 23-point outburst.

“Marissa is so fast and quick and she is a great defender,” Olejasz said. “She’s developed a really nice shot as shown in the Shadyside game last year. She will be a big scorer for us this year. We’re looking forward to her leading this team in a big way.”

Serena Geyer is the lone junior on the squad and will be vying for time with a large sophomore class.

“Our sophomores are really stepping up,” Olejasz said. “Lily Vogrin is a pure shooter and a really good defender. Elle Canestraro is also really fast and athletic. She’s a great shooter and a good defender.

“Reagan Olejasz is a really good defender. She’s really strong and can play the 3, 4 or 5. She’s very versatile.

“Abbey Jones can play the 4 or 5. She’s strong, a good defender and very aggressive so we’re going to be young but we’re going to be fun to watch.”

Peyton Smith and Keiera Wilkinson round out the strong sophomore class.

“We sat down as a team and they set their own goals,” Coach Olejasz said. “We wrote them down on the board. They have a list of goals they try to achieve every day in practice and then long term goals, which is a state title.

“Their excitement is very easy to feed off of and we’re very excited to get started.”

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