Opponents in Winter, Teammates in Spring: AAU Bonds BL Girls Basketball


Courtesy of Hoop Academy

The Berkshire League AAU team, Hoop Academy, poses outside of the CT Northstars at their first tournament.

Juliette Nichols, Sports Reporter

WOODBURY — The winter months are full of rivalry nights, intense competition, and the race for the Berkshire League championship title for the basketball teams within this league. 

However, the BL is getting smaller, especially with the new merger of Litchfield and Wamogo high schools in 2024-25.

With fewer teams come fewer players to create a competitive basketball league. In efforts to keep up this competitiveness with girls basketball, Wamogo girls basketball coach Kerri Stolle and Nonnewaug girls basketball coach Rebecca Pope started an AAU team: Hoop Academy. 

The invite to join this team was sent to current juniors, sophomores, and freshmen on all girls basketball teams of the Berkshire League. The roster contains girls from four different schools in the BL. The Chief Advocate asked questions to some of the members of the team for further insight about the group. 

What do you like best about the team? 

McKenna Hardisty, freshman, Nonnewaug: “I like the opportunity to grow as a player with other girls from our league. I can get better at basketball while making new friends.”

Olivia Gwiazdoski, freshman, Nonnewaug: “I like how the competition level is so different from the regular high school season.” 

Nicki Robillard, sophomore, Wamogo: “I like how we all push each other and learn to play together and work as a team quickly.”

Brooke Beaudoin, sophomore, Thomaston: “I love the ability to interact with different players from different teams. At first I was a little nervous, but we are all there for the same reason: We want to get better. So we make each other better.”

What is it like having a different coach than your regular-season coach?

Hardisty: “Coach Pope is our coach [at Nonnewaug]. We don’t have Coach Stolle [at Nonnewaug], so her input and thought on the game is different from what Pope would teach us, and this makes us better.” 

Matty Young, junior, Northwestern: “I have learned new skills and drills. It is also cool to have insight into what plays will be run against our team in the high school season.”

Beaudoin: “I have only had male coaches in my life. Having two girls coach me is a new experience for me.”

What is it like being teammates you know will be opponents in a few months?

Hardisty: “It almost gives us an advantage in the long run because we all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the regular season.” 

Robillard: “We get to learn how other teams are coached, and this gives us new ways to improve ourselves.”

Young: “It is so fun to play with players I know will be opponents. I know our high school games will have a very sportsmanlike and competitive atmosphere. We will always have that teammate side to us, even when competing against each other.”

Why did you decide to join this team?

Hardisty: “I knew this would be a high level of competition. This is a good way to challenge myself.” 

Robillard: “My team lost many seniors this year. I want to get better to benefit my team in the long run. Everyone here wants to work hard and get better, which pushes me to do the same.” 

Young: “I wanted to be teammates with girls in the Berkshire League, and I wanted to play against girls out of the Berkshire League. Both are improving my skills.” 

Beaudoin: “My coaches see many good things in me, and I’m hoping through offseason basketball I can live up to those expectations. I was given this opportunity and I plan to use all of it to the best of my ability.”

The team so far has played in tournaments in Canton and New London, and it will continue into late June.