Sacred Heart Greenwich basketball coach Ayo Hart looks at her roster, which is comprised of two seniors, six sophomores, a freshman and an eighth-grader and is confident in how efficiently the team will perform no matter what combination of athletes are on the court.
“Our strength is our depth, we have 10 players who can make an impact at any moment,” said Hart, who is beginning her sixth season as coach of the Tigers. “I’m very optimistic about the season.”
Hart and the Tigers have plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Sacred Heart possesses depth, has some experienced players and though it has a lot of underclassmen, there’s a wealth of athleticism and skill on the team.
“We have a lot of young, natural athleticism on the team, so we’re excited to see how that pans out and how they can perform this year and develop and grow as the season goes on,” Sacred Heart senior co-captain Franny O’Brien said. “It is my fourth year on the team, which is a little bittersweet, but I’m really excited to have one last ride and have a lot of fun and leave it all out on the court this year.”
O’Brien, who was named to the USA Lacrosse All-America Team this past spring and was also a standout performer on the school’s soccer team, is one of the Tigers’ multi-sport athletes. She should help pace SHG at the shooting guard position.
“She brings a lot to the court with her great athleticism and leadership,” Hart said of O’Brien, who has committed to play Division I lacrosse at Notre Dame.
Senior co-captain Sarah Augustine has also been a mainstay on the team since her freshman season. Augustine is a 6-foot-3 center/power forward, who will look to power the Tigers in the low post area close to the basket. She also has a soft shooting touch from the perimeter, which should also aid the team offensively.
Indeed, Augustine is embracing her role as one of the squad’s captains.
“As a captain, I’m definitely trying to lead the team in multiple ways,” Augustine said. “But definitely one of them is trying to bond the entire team and put forth our best effort and make sure everyone is going 110 percent and going their hardest, so we can be a better team as one.”
Like O’Brien, Augustine has experienced many enjoyable moments on the court at Sacred Heart.
“Sacred Heart is a very tight community and our basketball team has a tight bond,” Augustine said. “Being on the team is like being a part of another family here at Sacred Heart.”
Hart has the exciting opportunity to coach her twin daughters, Madison and Victoria, who are beginning their sophomore seasons on the team. Madison Hart, a point guard, is in her third season on the team – she joined the varsity squad as an eighth-grader in 2019 – and will help run the Tigers’ offense.
“She can shoot and is very good at delivering and setting people up,” coach Hart said of Madison. “Madison is also very vocal and really brings a lot of energy, whether she is on the court or on the bench.”
Victoria Hart, also a guard, is one of the Tigers’ defensive stoppers.
“She is another very good defender, she is the one we put on the opposition’s best player,” coach Hart said. “She is really going to help us defensively. And if you leave her alone she will hit the 3.”
Payton Sfreddo is a 5-11 sophomore already in her third season on the Tigers. She started at guard/forward as an eighth-grader two seasons ago and quickly emerged as one of the team’s leading scorers.
Sfreddo can shoot from long range and with the ability to dribble and drive toward the basket, is difficult to defend. In the quarterfinal-round of the FAA Tournament two seasons ago in February of 2020, Sfreddo scored a team-high 16 points to lead the Tigers to a 53-40 win over Hopkins School.
Last season saw SHG play just a handful of games and scrimmages due to the COVID-19 safety guidelines that were put in place, but the Tigers are back to playing a full slate of contests against FAA/NEPSAC foes this winter.
“Payton will play some frontcourt and backcourt,” coach Hart said. “She has grown, she is 5-11 now, and it will once again, be fun to see her in action. She is a very good shooter, defender and finisher. She does not get rattled out there on the court.”
Eva Wilkerson, who started on the school’s soccer team as a freshman this fall, brings depth and a defensive presence to the backcourt.
“She is a phenomenal defender, a ball hawk,” Hart said of Wilkerson. “Eva’s a great athlete, who fits in well in our backcourt.”
Kaitlin Robinson, a 6-2 power forward/forward, will be relied upon for rebounding and offensive production in the low post. A versatile athlete, Robinson is also a standout player on the Tigers’ lacrosse and volleyball teams.
“Kaitlin is athletic as ever,” Hart said. “She plays at the No. 4 spot and we will really try to use her length and athleticism. She could get a lot of clean up points around the basket.”
Indeed, Robinson can complement Augustine well close to the basket. Maddie Hooper, a sophomore, brings shooting and a solid low post game to the power forward position.
“We have a huge size advantage at forward with Kaitlin and Maddie, which we hope to capitalize on,” Augustine said.
Eighth grader Ava Curto brings shooting and playmaking ability to the backcourt, while sophomore Olivia Leahy is also entering her first season on the squad.
“Ava is super skilled and can finish at the rim,” said coach Hart, who is assisted by Carol Leib. “Olivia is a multi-sport athlete (soccer, lacrosse) who works really hard and will help the team defensively and in getting those 50/50 loose balls.”
After opening their season on Saturday against visiting Hotchkiss School at 4 p.m., the Tigers will play host to FAA foe Greenwich Country Day on Dec. 8 at 3:30. They will visit Holy Child on Dec. 10, then FAA rival Greenwich Academy will make the short trip to Sacred Heart for a Dec. 15 matchup. A trip to the Groton School (Dec. 17-18) for a tournament will follow, then the Tigers will begin a lot of games in the new year, starting with road matchups against Hamden Hall (Jan. 5) and Masters School (Jan. 10).
“Last year when we didn’t have a lot of games, but we got a lot of successful, efficient practices in, so we’re excited to put those to use this year and see how we do in an actual competitive season,” O’Brien said. “We can’t wait to play a full season of games. We are really excited to play all the boarding schools and get back into the swing of having a regular season and a more competitive season. As usual, we want to go hard in the FAAs, have a successful season and go far in the tournament.”
Sacred Heart has made its mark in the FAA Tournament the past four seasons, advancing to either the semifinals or championship game. St. Luke’s School has been the FAA’s powerhouse program and will be the team to beat once again.
“We really want a shot at the FAA title this year,” coach Hart said. “We know what stands between us and that plaque is St. Luke’s.”
“Our team wants to finish the season as one of the top seeds in the FAA,” Augustine said. “St. Luke’s is going to be really competitive again this year, but that will help push our team to win.”