Just when you think the Trinity basketball program may be headed back to oblivion after a string of seasons riding high with Division I prospects, enter four new players set to start at the varsity level.

Backed with the return of Loyola-bound Monica Albano and fellow returning starters Shakyia Vassar and Taricka Linzy, the Blazers are expected to be a competitive squad this season. If that’s not enough to convince a doubter, the addition of Glenbard West transfer student Nicole Hazemi and freshmen Gracie Sanchez, Megan Podkowa and Anne Larsen, make Trinity formidable in the present and set for the future.

Albano, now a senior starting her fourth consecutive season on varsity, averaged a team-high 19 points per game last year. The speedy guard helped the Blazers to a 26-7 overall record. Vassar is the only other senior on the team. The 5-foot-6-inch point guard contributed eight points per game last season. She’ll be joined by sophomores Linzy (7 ppg) and Divinity Brown, another point guard who is coming off a knee injury.

Trinity is likely to receive a big boost from Hazemi, an all-conference player last season. Hazemi, a 6-1 junior center, average 12 points per game for the Hilltoppers.

“We arguably have two of the top 10 freshmen in the state on our team (Sanchez and Podkowa) this year, and Nicole Hazemi is a tremendous player for us as she adds a different dimension to our team being much bigger in the post,” said Trinity head coach Ed Stritzel.

What Sanchez lacks in experience she makes up for in size. The freshman is 5-10 and will start at power forward, while Podkowa is 6-foot and likely to see significant playing time at the two-guard spot, according to Stritzel.

“We feel with everyone returning, plus the additions of Nicole, Grace and Megan, we will be one of the top teams in the state,” said Stritzel.

The Blazers tip-off the season in River Forest tonight (Wednesday, Nov. 19) against area-rival OPRF at Trinity’s Sister Michelle Germanson Athletic Facility (7:30 p.m.). The team will also host its own Christmas Tournament beginning Dec. 20.

“It’s a special tournament as there will be five of the top 25 teams there,” said Stritzel of the holiday tourney. “It will get us ready for state playoffs.”

Up Close

Key returner: Monica Albano
Newcomers: Nicole Hazemi, Gracie Sanchez, Megan Podkowa
2007 record: 26-7 overall, 5-1 GCAC Red
Tidbit: If the freshmen on the team learn quickly from Albano, a Class 3A state title isn’t out of the question.

2008-09 Home Schedule

Wed., Nov. 19 vs. OPRF, 7:30 p.m.
Tues, Dec. 2 vs. Proviso East, 7 p.m.
Thurs., Dec. 11 vs. Queen of Peace, 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Dec. 16 vs. Von Steuben, 7 p.m.
Sat., Dec. 20 vs. Downers Grove, 1:30 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 3 vs. St. Joseph, 2:30 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 6 vs. St. Ignatius, 7:30 p.m.
Thurs., Jan. 8 vs. Marian, 7 p.m.
Thurs., Jan. 15 vs. Mother Mc., 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Jan. 24 vs. Young, 7:30 p.m.
Tues., Jan. 27 vs. Hope, 7 p.m.

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...