For Angelica Ariola, being around the game of basketball has always been a special experience. While she finished her playing days in college, she feels that the lessons learned have extended into her life.
“I have passion for the game,” said Ariola. “Basketball has given me so much in my lifetime. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and passion for the game with future athletes.”
After spending the last two years as an assistant with the Sheehan High School girls’ program, Ariola is happy to have the opportunity to lead her own team starting this winter. On July 15, Ariola was announced as the new girls’ head coach at nearby Cheshire High School.
“It is a great feeling,” stated Ariola. “I'm really excited and ready to start the season. I’m excited to meet the girls and work to achieve our goals."
Ariola will succeed Michelle Vieira, who chose to step down to spend more time with her family. Vieira coached the Rams for four seasons.
Ariola learned of the opening through Twitter.
“I saw that the former coach had stepped down. I also found the (job) opening on CIAC, so I contacted (CHS Athletic Director) Steve (Trifone) and started the process,” Ariola explained.
Ariola recalls being drawn at a young age to the structure and teamwork involved in basketball.
“It is a fast-pace game,” added Ariola.
She played at Holy Cross High School in Waterbury and then competed at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.
“I played for a fabulous group,” reflected Ariola.
In a highlight, she traveled abroad with her college team to play in Germany and Italy during the summer before her sophomore year.
“It was more about the experience than just playing basketball,” stated Ariola.
As a player, she developed an appreciation for being the point guard.
“The point guard and the coach need to be on the same page,” explained Ariola. “That relationship is what helped me step up in the (locker) room.”
After college, Ariola pursued coaching basketball and joined the Sheehan program. In the 2018-19 season, she helped the Titans reach CIAC Class M title game, where they fell 60-51 to Cromwell.
“It was a very rewarding experience for the coaches and the girls,” recalled Ariola. “I never made it to Mohegan Sun as a player, so it (the trip) was something that I enjoyed.”
While it is tough to leave the Sheehan staff for CHS, she appreciates her time with the Titans. Ariola expects to share laughs and hugs when she has the chance to coach against her former team.
“When I was at Sheehan, I didn't think that there would be this opportunity,” said Ariola, who credits Sheehan Head Coach Mike Busillo for his help in the last two seasons. “To finally have my own program is what every former athlete and coach dreams of. I'm very thankful.”
Cheshire is coming off a winter season where they finished at 6-15. The Rams won their last three regular-season games to make the Class LL Tournament. In first-round action, CHS ended the year with a 48-26 loss at Newtown.
CHS graduates co-captains Ari Perlini and Toni Wetmore, as well as Emma Watkinson and Rylee Post.
Ariola hasn't met her new team yet, but she has done research and spoken to Trifone about the Cheshire program.
“With any new team, it is important that we are working on the culture,” explained Ariola. “I like to set milestones instead of goals. I think they (milestones) are more reasonable to achieve, like wanting to win on the road or win back-to-back home games. That will lead to more rewarding goals down the road.”
As a teacher and coach, Ariola feels it is important to plan for the impact that the coronavirus could have on the upcoming winter season.
“You need to be prepared for the unknown,” stated Ariola. “You pick the right people to surround yourself with.”