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Ngo, Ibarrondo give Holy Family its future backcourt

07/29/2023, 1:45pm EDT
By Josh Verlin

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

It was on a visit to Holy Family with her mother that Amy Ngo found out exactly what Tigers head coach Bernadette Laukaitis had planned for her 2024 recruiting class.

“She told us she only offered two people,” Ngo said, “and it was me and Lola.”

In the same month, the Holy Family alum and fifth-year head coach landed the exact two players she wanted. Ngo and Neshaminy’s Lola Ibarrondo both popped for Laukaitis’ Holy Family program in June, giving the Tigers head coach commitments from the exact pairing she’d been targeting for months.

Amy Ngo (above) missed parts of her sophomore and junior seasons due to an ACL injury. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Both of them said they just knew Holy Family was the right program for them, their recruitments following similar timelines throughout the last six months, ending within a couple weeks of one another.

Ngo committed first, on June 12, the same day as her last final of her junior year at Upper Dublin. An always-meaningful moment had some extra emotion for the 5-foot-4 shooting guard: the oldest daughter of La Salle Hall of Famer Jen Zenszer, Ngo suffered a major knee injury at the end of her sophomore season, tearing her ACL, costing her the 2022 postseason, her entire offseason and a good chunk of her junior season. 

She did return in mid-January, not quite at full capacity but still plenty capable, which she showed with a 31-point performance, going a perfect 11-for-11 against Wissahickon on January 27. It was around that time that she’d sent out emails to a number of area programs she had interest in, letting them know she was back on the court.

“After my injury, that whole year it was a lot, my head was going in a million different places and one of them was college — I’m like, I don’t know what I’m going to do, I’m going to be not 100%, playing in these super-intense AAU games,” she said. “I had reached out to a bunch of colleges, because I’d been hurt [...]  I reached out to Holy Family and (Laukaitis) emailed me back [...] she was super-excited that I reached out to her, and got everything started.”

Right around that time, Ibarrondo and Laukaitis were also getting to know each other, the tough and athletic 5-7 guard identified by the Tigers’ coaches as a major target by the midpoint of her own junior year. It got serious enough that the Holy Family players were coming to watch Ibarrondo play — not going up to her to recruit her, but just showing up, being seen.

“It meant a lot to me, honestly,” she said. “I felt really wanted.”

Ibarrondo (above) will be a three-year starter at Neshaminy after starting all freshman year at Conwell-Egan. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Ibarrondo had been developing a feeling in her gut the whole time, her decision coming down to Holy Family and Jefferson, the same choice Ngo eventually made. When she was on HFU’s Northeast Philly campus for the second time, on June 26, the directive that had been building inside of her bubbled over. 

A quick check with her mom Val, on the trip with her that day, and then Ibarrondo told Laukaitis that she was going to be a Tiger the next fall.

“It was kind of unexpected,” Ibarrondo added. “I didn’t know I was going to do it that day, and I was like, you know what, I should just do it. I had my mind pretty much made up.

“When I went up there for my second visit, I knew. I just felt like I had to do it that day; I was comfortable there, and it felt like home.”

Both Ngo and Ibarrondo said they’re only just starting to get to know each other as future teammates, but they’re quite familiar with each other on the court. Neshaminy beat Upper Dublin this year in the District 1 seeding rounds for the state playoffs; they’ve also faced off in the offseason, Ngo’s Comets teams playing Ibarrondo’s Mid-Atlantic Magic.

“She’s a very, very solid player,” Ibarrondo said of Ngo. “Hopefully we can be good teammates — I can see it, we can be a good duo together.”

“She’s tough, she’s definitely really tough,” Ngo said of Ibarrondo. “I never really liked playing against her, because she was always, like, super-good.”

They’re both going to have their work cut out for them when they get to college next fall. 

The Tigers have been a powerhouse in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) for quite some time, Mike McLaughlin taking them to six straight NCAA Tournaments, a run that continued under Mark Miller (2009-16), whose teams earned six March Madness bids of their own, including two Elite 8 appearances.

Laukaitis, who was an assistant at Penn for 10 years prior to returning to her alma mater in 2019, led the program to a 20-10 (14-4 CACC) record this past year, losing to Post in the league semifinals in March. The Tigers boasted the CACC Rookie of the Year, Skyler Searfoss (13.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg), while fellow rookie Taylor Hinkle (CB South) averaged 7.1 ppg and 4.4 rpg off the bench. 

Those two should still be around when Ngo and Ibarrondo arrive on campus; so will rising seniors Carolyn Prevost (11.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Lindsay Tretter (8.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg) if they choose to use their 5th/COVID year of eligibility. It’s a Holy Family squad that should once again be in the mix for a conference title and NCAA bid, part of a thriving area D-II women’s scene that also has high-level programs in Jefferson, Chestnut Hill, West Chester, Kutztown and more perennial March Madness contenders. 

“I’m super-excited, especially because some of my teammates are going to Kutztown and schools in the area, so I’ll be playing against them,” Ibarrondo said. “I’ll definitely be excited for that, it’s going to be fun.”

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