Pictured: Angela Mercaldi (15, far left) and Mya Field (25) with teammates Meryl Curtin (2), Hannah Barrientos (center) and Danielle Adams (34, far right) after winning the Shoreline Conference championship in February.
By Paul Augeri
East Hampton juniors Mya Field and Angela Mercaldi were among four Shoreline Conference basketball players to earn All-State nods from the Connecticut High School Coaches Association.
Field and Mercaldi led the Bellringers to a 19-1 regular season and the program’s first Shoreline championship since 2008.
“Having two players recognized and selected as CHSCA Class S All-State team members is a rare accomplishment for a basketball program,” East Hampton coach Shaun Russell said. “We are all very proud of their selection as it was well deserved, and everyone on the team played a part in their selection.”
The CHSCA’s picks in Class M included Cromwell senior forward Vanessa Stolstajner, the two-time Shoreline Player of the Year, as well as Morgan junior point guard Catie Donadio.
Stolstajner was a four-year varsity player for the Panthers, who won four straight Shoreline titles prior to this season. She averaged a team-best 16.9 points a game and 5.9 rebounds and shot 81 percent from the free-throw line.
Donadio, a First Team All-Shoreline selection, averaged team bests of 15.8 points, 4.8 assists and 4.9 steals per game. She also was the Huskies’ second-leading rebounder (8.4 average).
Both Field and Mercaldi are three-year starters who had excellent all-around numbers for the Bellringers. The team was 23-1 and a quarterfinalist in the Class S tournament at the time the CIAC canceled the remainder of the winter season as the COVID-19 crisis intensified.
“Both Angela and Mya are dedicated, team-first type players with extremely high basketball IQs,” Russell said. “They both possess a tremendous work ethic and are great teammates.”
Mercaldi, who developed into a top-caliber point guard, averaged 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3 steals. At 5-foot-9, her length also made her one of the toughest players at her position to guard.
“Angela sees the game from all angles and understands the value of keeping everyone involved,” Russell said. “She and I are in sync in terms of thinking the game and seeing the next play. She is a good scorer as well from all areas of the floor and a versatile defender who contributes in all areas of the game and elevates her teammates’ level of play.”
Russell said Field, a 5-9 forward, is as versatile a player as he’s coaches. She averaged 11 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals this season.
“Mya is capable of playing every position on the floor on offense and able to guard any player on the opposing team,” he said. “She is a tremendous defender both on the ball and off. Her abilities make everyone around her better players. She is capable of doing whatever is required during a given game to help the team win. She has bent the most this season individually of any player to allow the team’s needs and goals to supersede any individual accomplishments.”
The abrupt end to the tournament was a “blow to us all,” Russell said. The Bellringers were well positioned to play for their first state title since the 1985.
“Both the CIAC decision itself as well as the timing and abrupt nature of their decision was devastating in sports terms,” Russell said. “That Tuesday, we were able to have a team meeting during school and that was one of, if not the most, difficult team meeting I’ve had to preside over. We were all very emotional –confused, angry, upset, saddened — while trying to understand what was happening not only relevant to our sport and sports in general but what was beginning to happen around us as well. What we talked about that day mostly was being there for each other and that it was all right to experience and have the types of emotions associated with their feelings. Just spending those couple of hours together helped us all find our footing that day to begin going forward.”
Players were especially upset for Maggie Donahue, the team’s only senior, “would not get another chance to play and that her career would be ending with an email canceling the tournament and not on the court as it should have.”
“That aspect of this all, Maggie not being able to finish her career on the court, was perhaps the most upsetting to the team as a whole,” Russell said. “It was and is difficult to gain perspective as we haven’t had a true opportunity to process this all and find some closure together since school was also closed. Hopefully we’ll be able to get together to celebrate the many great things that we did accomplish this season.”
East Hampton’s senior class next season also will include the likes of Hannah Barrientos, Meryl Curtin and Danielle Adams. The Bellringers are 52-8 combined in the last three regular seasons, reaching the quarterfinals each time.
After a 23-1 year and no closure, next season will bring a higher set of expectations.
“The general consensus of our group is that we have some unfinished business,” Russell said. “I’m sure that this experience will play a prominent role in our planning, preparation and thought process as we look ahead to returning to the court next season. I would like to think this sports-related experience will motivate them both on and off the court as they move forward into next year and beyond. We will always be bonded by the events of this season as a group, and over time we will find the right lens to view it all and understand it all the best we can.”