skip navigation

PSWSBL Report: New Hope reunion; Aspesi building on strong sophomore season

07/09/2024, 8:15pm EDT
By Andrew Robinson

Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3)

HATBORO >> It’s the 30th  anniversary for the Philadelphia/Suburban Women’s Summer Basketball League, the long-running league offering current non-Division I college players and alumni of any level a competitive setting to fill the summer.

This year’s league features 10 teams, six of them composed mainly of a D-II or D-III roster (Arcadia, Chestnut Hill College, Goldey-Beacom, Holy Family, Jefferson and West Chester), two alumni teams and the final two squads drafted together from the remaining players. The league runs with games on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Kelly Bolish Gym (save for a bye week for the 4th of July holiday), all teams then qualifying for a league playoff.

From incoming freshmen getting a first look at their new teams to some local legends still lacing up the sneakers for the fun of it, the league lives by its mantra that all players should be given the opportunity to hone their skills for the upcoming collegiate season, have fun and stay fit.

Here are a few notes from the week of June 27:


Rachel Saxton (Sr. | Muhlenberg) & Reagan Chrencik (Soph. | Gettysburg College)

It was a moment Rachel Saxton wasn’t quite ready for.

Rachel Saxton (above, left) and Reagan Chrencik are teammates again after going their separate ways for college. (Photo: Andrew Robinson/CoBL)

The Muhlenberg guard felt like she was locked in and ready ahead of the Muhls’ first meeting with Centennial Conference rival Gettysburg College. Then, she stepped on the court and saw Reagan Chrencik’s parents sitting there and the flashbacks to New Hope-Solebury came fast.

During the season, the two New Hope-Solebury alums are conference rivals but for this summer, they’re back on the same team.

“It definitely shows in our competitiveness, whether we were on the same team or playing for different teams like we do now, but it also shows our camaraderie,” Saxton said. “You have two skillful players who are individually trying to get better coming back together to put together what we know and also learn from each other.”

Saxton, who will be senior at Muhlenberg, and Chrencik - a rising sophomore with the Bullets - shared the court for two years at New Hope-Solebury. Their first year together was the Lions’ last in the BAL and also coach Steve Polinsky’s first leading the program, New Hope-Solebury reaching the league title game and District 1 4A final.

Their last season together in high school came with a share of the SOL Freedom title in New Hope-Solebury’s first year in the league and another trip to the District 1 4A final. Saxton, a four year first-team all-league selection between the BAL and SOL, has started 37 of her 72 appearances over the last three years for Muhlenberg including 24 of the Muhls’ 25 outings last year.

“Playing at a small school taught me everybody has a voice and you’re allowed to step up,” Saxton said. “Now that I’m going to be a senior, it’s definitely helped in a leadership type of way but also mostly going from a school where you have a coach that pushes you and teammates that push you, you just bring that along with you. Everybody has something different to bring any time you go to a new team.”

The Lions made it back to the playoffs in Chrencik’s first year post-Saxton but the run ended in the semifinals of the four-team 4A bracket. A year later, Chrencik was the senior leader on a still relatively young New Hope-Solebury team that won the SOL Freedom title before getting to the top, winning the District 1 4A title and its first round PIAA tournament game. Last year, Chrencik played in 28 games for a Bullets team that won its third straight Centennial Conference title.

“Those two years with her really showed me how to use my voice and there were always things I could work on,” Chrencik said. “It would have been nice to have her by my side but it also gave me time to step up and those two years with her and her class really helped me to figure out my role. No matter your skills or minutes on the court, everyone on that kind of team has a voice and I think it helped me grow as a leader and figure out it’s bigger than basketball.” 

Gettysburg College took both meetings last year, topping Muhlenberg 72-58 in January on the road, then getting the home rematch 67-53 in early February. The New Hope-Solebury alums both played in each meeting, although the 5-foot-4 Saxton tried to avoid the 5-foot-10 Chrencik while the game clock was running.

“I told everybody that I didn’t want to play her because she’s too tall,” Saxton said. “That definitely would have been funny, we both know each other so well as players I’m sure it would have been cool to watch. Maybe watch out for it next year.”

Even as a post, Chrencik is a really good shooter so naturally playing with a high IQ point guard like Saxton led to a lot of easy looks as teammates. It’s a problem that each other’s college teams have to figure out when they play each other, but for a few more weeks at least, they’re enjoying setting up a few of those type of looks again.

“We were like that classic duo,” Chrencik said. “We just read each other so well. I’ve always enjoyed playing with her, I even enjoy playing against her, luckily I don’t have to guard her in college.”

Saxton’s been a regular in the summer league since the end of her high school days and last year, ahead of her freshman year at Gettysburg College, Chrencik signed up as well. They weren’t on the same team last summer, although Saxton did get to play with another New Hope-Solebury alum in Sabrina Vlahovic, but they reunited this year on one of the league’s drafted teams along with Saxton’s Muhlenberg teammate Katie McGrath, a Jenkintown grad.

Their roster, which is made up of players from various Division III rosters with ranging experience of incoming college freshmen to a couple recent college grads, has been playing well with wins Jefferson and Holy Family’s summer teams within the last three games

“I honestly am having a great time,” Chrencik said. “I came in wanting to get better and all the girls are great. We take it seriously, but we’re also having such a good time - we’re cheering each other on every play - we’re building each other up and getting everybody going offensively and defensively.”

Saxton laughed as she recalled being completely disarmed after seeing Chrencik’s parents in the crowd back in January, even stopping to ask how they were doing before getting into warm-ups. Polinsky had driven up to Allentown to see their matchup, getting a picture of the two together after the game while Chrencik recalled a couple instances in both games last year where they jokingly chided each other to tone down the competitiveness.

They’ll play at least two more times, both agreeing a potential third meeting in Centennial Conference playoff game would also be pretty compelling but are right now enjoying a second life as teammates.

“It’s the same thing here,” Chrencik said. “I saw her family sitting in the corner and I just thought ‘am I back at New Hope right now?’ I felt like I’d seen it before, which I had.”


Annie Aspesi (Jr. | Tufts)

After a difficult freshman year in college, Year Two went much better for Annie Aspesi.

The Harriton grad had been ambitious about her endeavors at the next level, not only choosing an elite academic institution in Tufts but also opting to play two sports on top of that. At least, that was the plan until a shoulder injury in preseason not only cost her freshman year in basketball but also in lacrosse and eventually led to surgery.

Annie Aspesi (above) is playing both basketball and lacrosse at Tufts. (Photo: Andrew Robinson/CoBL)

Aspesi bounced back this past year, seeing plenty of time in both sports to finally put her plan into action.

“I knew I wanted to do it, I didn’t think it would be possible until I started hearing from both coaches at a couple different schools and I knew I could keep playing both sports that I love,” Aspesi said. “I’m really glad I got the chance to do it.”

Aspesi had played in the summer league two years back, ahead of her first year in college, but had to sit out last year while still on the mend from her shoulder surgery. Remembering she’d had a good experience the first time, Aspesi opted to come back this summer and is glad she did.

She’s playing with one of the league’s two college alumni-dominated roster, again teammates with Colgate/Germantown Academy grad Alexa Naessens after they were summer teammates two years back. Even playing with a former Division I player like Naessens, USciences alum Jess Huber or recently graduated West Chester star Leah Johnson this summer, Aspesi isn’t afraid to play aggressive but also has a good time doing it.

“There’s great energy all around,” Aspesi said. “The guys who run the league are so nice, they always say hi and talk to us and hand out the programs every night. Everyone’s here to have fun, it’s not too serious, it’s a good time to take risks just because everyone is comfortable with each other after playing for a bit so there’s nothing to lose.”

Aspesi, who’s listed major is Biopsychology, certainly has a busy athletic schedule on top of her academics. Once basketball preseason started up last fall, she went until late May when the Jumbos were eliminated in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III women’s lacrosse tournament.

Given that Tufts is also a strong basketball program annually, Aspesi knew she would have to navigate some overlap between both sports. A guard in basketball, she played in all 24 games last season, then as a defensive back/midfielder in lacrosse, she played in 11 of the team’s 20 contests during the spring.

Aspesi chalked up her ability to manage it all to a lot of flexibility from basketball coach Jill Pace and lacrosse boss Courtney Shute, plus her two rosters’ worth of teammates.

“I love both sports so much, so it’s really worth it,” Aspesi said. “I lucked out a lot at Tufts, I have two great coaches who understand, they work with me and work with each other to know when I’m going to be at which things. Same with the girls on both teams, no matter what team I’m with, I just feel so welcome and they make the transition so much easier.”

When she initially injured her shoulder early in basketball preseason as a freshman, Aspesi understandably didn’t want to lose out on the year and initially tried to rehab with the caveat that any reinjury or setback would likely mean surgery. Unfortunately, her shoulder dislocated again and it had to get fixed leading to a medical redshirt.

Despite being on campus for a year, Aspesi explained there was still an adjustment gap this season as she caught up to the speed of the game and the strength of some of the older players. She could also potentially take a fifth year if she wants due to the redshirt.

“Missing out and sitting on the bench for two seasons my freshman year was really tough but I learned to take the most from every moment on the field or on the court and not take anything for granted,” Aspesi said. “This year, I was just so grateful to get out there, play with my friends and take all the opportunities I could get.”

During her time at Harriton, Aspesi also played club basketball with the Philly Roots. She’s stayed connected with the program even after graduating - Roots director Christina Wielgus was also Aspesi’s coach at Harriton - and has been helping out with the fourth, fifth and eighth grade teams this summer.

For Aspesi, it’s gratifying to see one of the girls take some advice she gives them and see it pay off but mostly, she just enjoys being back with the up-and-coming players she’s gotten to know over the past few years.

“It’s so much fun, I’m seeing them growing up,” Aspesi said. “Some of the girls, I remember meeting them in second or third grade. They’d come to our Harriton games to watch and we’d go help Coach Chris with her practices so it’s been great getting to know all these girls.

“They would text me during the year about my games and ask ‘are you coaching? When do we get to see you?’ It’s fun to be home for the summer and having the chance to be around them again.”

D-I Coverage:

HS Coverage:

Recruiting News:

Tag(s): Home  College  Division II  Division III  Women's  Andrew Robinson