Interview with Tara Macciocco: Expectations very high for next season


Photo credit/ Katlynn Whitaker

Tara Macciocco coaches her team during the CSAC semifinal playoff game against Neumann University.

John Ferraro, Sports Editor

After the Pacers fell short in a CSAC playoff run last season, head women’s basketball coach Tara Macciocco has high expectations for the team next year. She talked to The Wood Word about the improbable top seeded finish this past season, expectations for next season, development of leadership on a team without seniors, recruiting, and much more.

Looking back at last season.

We definitely exceeded our expectations. If you had asked me at the beginning of the season if we would be the one-seed, I would have never expected it. I didn’t expect that we would be the number one seed, get a bye, and host a conference semifinal with the group that we had coming back, especially with losing our top scorer and graduating six seniors. I don’t think there were many people that expected us to be where we were at the end of the year. These young ladies bought into everything that we sold them from day one. It took probably until midpoint in the season after the New Year for them to completely buy in and it showed out on the floor. We had a terrific run the second half of the year. Hopefully that run will prepare us to come back next year with even higher expectations.

What is the expectation for next season?

I think the expectations are going to be higher. I think it’s a good thing with such a young team that we have with eight freshmen that we experienced winning. Now, they don’t know anything else. They are going to be prepared to one-up where we finished last season. It is going to make them work harder in the offseason. There is going to be a whole new group of leadership ready to take over. They have the opportunity in the offseason to do that. They know that my expectations are a lot higher than they were last year. I think there is a good group of kids that will emerge as leaders; so we will have strong leadership right way.

Other than losing in the CSAC playoffs, is there anything you would do differently?

As a coach, you look back at every game. You look back at the stats. You look back at every possession. But, everything happens for a reason. There are days that you exceed your level of play and days that you don’t. Would I change anything? I’m sure that there are a lot of things that I could have done differently, but it played out the way it played out. We gave one hundred percent every game. You can’t ask for more than that. Sometimes the ball doesn’t fall the way you want it to fall. Sometimes you will have teams make more shots than you make. That being said, I don’t think I would have done anything differently.

How impressive was Gabby Giordano to watch as a rookie this year?

Gabby is obviously an outstanding player. She is a tough matchup for anybody she plays against. She can go inside. She can take you off the dribble. She can step back and hit a three pointer. She is a very difficult matchup. Gabby is one of the best guards in the league if not the best guard in the league. Coming back next year, she is going to have to change a lot of things because teams are going to guard her differently. I think one of the best things she started to do toward the end of the year was becoming more of a leader. There were games where she literally put the team on her back and carried them, which opened opportunities for other people. You saw Natasha Hessling starting to score more. Catie Nealon started hitting shots down the stretch. Gabby doesn’t realize how much she helped the team.
With no seniors on the team, how do you determine the leadership role?

Usually it doesn’t really happen until the fall, but we are starting a little bit earlier this year. We only have a couple sophomores coming back and the rest are all freshmen. They all know that they have to step up their vocal leadership. That is the biggest thing we are going to lose without Alexa Gerchman. The vocal leadership lost with Alexa is going to take a while to develop, but I think we are in good shape from a work ethic standpoint. Leadership development is going to take all summer and fall before somebody finally emerges as the leader for us.


When we started recruiting in the beginning of last summer, we needed to fill the role of those four seniors. We need to fill each one of their roles and find somebody that’s going to replace each one of them. Also, we needed to bring in a post player because we are generally a small team. We have three commitments right now. One of them is a 6’-2” post player that is really good. She can not only step outside and hit a three but also go inside the paint and knock people around a little bit. We have a 5’-11” inside out player coming in. We have another girl that I keep referring to as “Alexa 2.” She plays exactly like Alexa. We have replaced three and we still have a few that we are in the mix with. I think if we can replace those four and what they brought to the table, we will be in good shape.
How important is having a stretch-four or stretch-five type of player in your system?

There were a couple of us that went over to the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 games in Scranton. I turned to the players and said, “The biggest difference between them being in the Sweet 16 game and us losing in the conference semifinal game is one really big person.” Natasha played big for us at 5’-9”, but we needed somebody that was a little bit bigger and stronger to matchup with the other teams. We needed a true back-to-the-basket post player. Having that kind of player brings your team to another level. Those teams playing in the Sweet 16 all had a strong back-to-the-basket post player. I think if we get that, with Natasha, we are going to be much more difficult to guard for any team.

Along with having the dynamic post player, what is another improvement you would like to make from last season?

Yes, having a big body post player definitely will help and change the things you can do defensively. We focused a lot on having to front the post and having to worry about the weak side help. Now we can play a little bit differently and maybe double team from the weak side with another post player. It also changes our offensive scheme completely. We played a five-out spread offense that we really didn’t get to attack inside. Now we can go to more of a high-low type of offense and challenge other teams in the paint. Once I know who is coming in over the summer, I can start to plan an offense. It’s going to be a completed new structured offense.

What is your outlook on next season bringing in the recruits you have committed?

Our goal every year is to win a conference championship. I think that needs to be the players’ mindset from now to the beginning of the season. We’ve been here. We’ve done it. We know what it takes to win. Now we just need to follow through and get past that semifinal round.

Contact the writer: [email protected]