Our Lady of Mercy Academy scores big with duo of European basketball stars

Monday December 12 2011 Ruta Verta -- OLMA girls Basketball -- during scrimmage against Wildwood Catholic. (The Press of Atlantic City / Ben Fogletto)

All high school basketball teams need to stay healthy to have a successful season.

For no team is that more true than for the Our Lady of Mercy Academy girls.

Injuries wrecked the 2011-12 season for OLMA.

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Highly touted foreign transfers Mariya Ruban and Ruta Vetra both tore knee ligaments and missed much of the season. Point guard Ali Dandrea played the season with a torn labrum in her shooting shoulder.

The Villagers were forced to start some junior-varsity players and finished 12-14.

"It was tough for the girls," OLMA coach Chip Reitano said. "The kids struggled a bit because they were hearing people tell them how good they could possibly be."

OLMA is relatively healthy this season. Both the 6-foot-5 Ruban and the 6-foot Vetra will start the season. Ruban is from the Ukraine and Vetra from Latvia.

"They look pretty good right now," Reitano said of Ruban and Vetra. "But it's going to take time for their stamina to get to where it needs to be. I probably wouldn't think they would need to be where they need to be until some time in January."

Dandrea sank 32 3-pointers last season despite her injury, which wasn't discovered until the offseason. She underwent surgery in June.

If the Villagers stay healthy, they have the size and talent to compete with any Cape-Atlantic League team. Anne Brewer, a 5-10 senior, provides defense and rebounding for the Villagers.

"We have to do a good job of taking care of the ball," Reitano said. "We're confident if we stay healthy and stay out of foul trouble, taking care of the ball and cutting down on turnovers will take us far."

Contact Michael McGarry:



League: Cape-Atlantic League National

Group: South Jersey Non-Public B

Coach: Chip Reitano (12-14, one season)

Last season's record: 12-14

2012-13 prediction: Contender - With 6-foot-5 Mariya Ruban and 6-0 Ruta Vetra, Villagers will pose matchup problems for nearly team they face.

Key players: Katie Kavanagh, Fr., 5-9, F; Abby Zee, Sr., 5-6, G; Caitlyn Covella, Sr., 5-5, G: Ali Dandrea, Sr., 5-7, G; Nina Circucci, Jr., 5-7, F; Mariya Ruban, Sr., 6-5, C; Ruta Vetra, Sr., 6-0, F; Anne Brewer, Sr, 5-10, F.


Dec. 14: at Ocean City

Jan. 3: vs. Oakcrest, 7

Jan. 4: vs. Hammonton, 5:30

Jan. 8: at Bridgeton

Jan. 12: vs. St. Hubert

Jan. 15: vs. Lower Cape May Regional

Jan. 18: at Absegami

Jan. 22: vs. Ocean City, 6

Jan. 25: at Middle Township

Jan. 29: at Oakcrest

Jan. 30: vs. Woodrow Wildson

Feb. 1: at Hammonton, 5:30

Feb. 2: vs. Middle Township

Feb. 5: vs. Bridgeton

Feb. 7: vs. Millville

Feb. 11: at Lower Cape May Regional


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