Utica Ford II freshman guard Olivia Kubik handles the ball during a Nov. 29 win over Rochester High. The Falcons return four players from last year’s division- and district-title-winning team.

Utica Ford II freshman guard Olivia Kubik handles the ball during a Nov. 29 win over Rochester High. The Falcons return four players from last year’s division- and district-title-winning team.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Utica Ford II girls hoops looks to continue strong run

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 6, 2017

 Utica Ford II girls basketball coach Matt Joseph gives instructions from the sideline during a Nov. 29 win over Rochester High. The Falcons’ next game is at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 against Grosse Pointe North on the road.

Utica Ford II girls basketball coach Matt Joseph gives instructions from the sideline during a Nov. 29 win over Rochester High. The Falcons’ next game is at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 against Grosse Pointe North on the road.

Photo by Donna Agusti

STERLING HEIGHTS — The cast of characters may have changed for the Utica Ford II girls basketball team, but longtime coach Matt Joseph expects the team to play well as the season goes along.

The Falcons — who went 20-4 last season on their way to Macomb Area Conference White Division and Class A district championships — return four players from last year’s team but lost eight to graduation, including all three captains. 

The four returning players are senior captains Carli Rizzo, Bree Schloss, Heather Luttenberger and Kaitlynn Zdybel. The roster also includes three juniors, three sophomores and one freshman.

“We’re young, but we expect to get better over the course of the year,” Joseph said. “The big thing is, yes, we’re young and inexperienced, but we’re excited about the challenge this season presents. You could see it in the girls’ faces before (the Nov. 29 season opener) that they’re definitely up to the challenge.”

The lone freshman, Olivia Kubik, started the season with a bang, netting 21 points in the team’s 42-33 season-opening win over Rochester High.

Joseph called Kubik a good kid who embraces hard work.

“I just want to do what I can to help the team win,” Kubik said. “I know I’m going to be the youngest player on the court a lot of the time, but I think it’s going to be fun.”

The youth has led to Joseph scaling down the team’s offensive and defensive playbook. The coach said he’s simplifying things early on, but will expand the sets as the season moves along.

“We like to show a lot of different looks, especially on defense,” Joseph said. “We’ll definitely add some things in. That’s what we do every year.”

Included in last season’s run was a 16-game win streak. If the team is to experience that level of success this winter, Rizzo will lead the way. 

The senior guard steps into a bigger role this season. Joseph said she’s shown the most growth of any player over the early part of the season.

“She’s really been a leader, and her improvement over the first couple of weeks has been strong,” Joseph said. “All of our seniors are going to lead us. They know this is their year. They do a good job and play with a lot of energy.”

Even with all of the roster turnover, Joseph is optimistic about the season.

The coach talked of the success the program has had the last 15 years, winning multiple district titles and winning at least 18 games in seven different seasons. Joseph said his players understand the reputation the program has established, and they want to add to that.

“They want to make a name for themselves,” Joseph said. “I think they’ll do that as the season goes along.”

“We just have to run the plays the right way and play as a team and make coach happy, and we’ll be fine,” Kubik said.

Ford’s next game is against Grosse Pointe North at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 on the road.