Injuries seem to be the story for the 2015-16 girls’ basketball season.
As the new campaign kicked off, nearly every one of Centre County’s teams was missing at least one player to a serious injury.
Some are gone for a few weeks, and some are gone for the season, but it has left an impact on teams’ plans as the season tips off.
“We haven’t had a full-squad practice yet,” Bellefonte coach Adam Gearhart said.
“As good as we looked a month ago,” Bald Eagle Area coach Jim Josefik said, “Oh boy. It’s a struggle to figure it all out.”
“We have to stay away from the injury bug,” added Penns Valley’s Karen McCaffrey.
Since injuries are just an added obstacle, each team is doing what it can to adapt.
Bald Eagle Area
Jim Josefik takes over the Lady Eagle program after spending the last two seasons as the junior varsity coach. He also was with the team previously before taking a four-year break. BEA had been under the guidance of Troy Butterworth.
“It’s been a challenge,” Josefik said. “It feels good. It’s a lot of preparation, a lot of things to deal with to get the program set up and pointed in the right direction. I’m excited.”
While there isn’t a lot of experience, and a few are sidelined with injuries, BEA still has 18 girls on the roster to at least provide some depth and building blocks for the future. Guard Alyssa Ward, the team’s only senior, is one of those sidelined, along with Julia Cingle. They were the only returning full-time starters.
Josefik is still piecing together the backcourt, but he does have some size in the paint with 5-11 Morgan Chambers and Lexi Turner, and 6-1 Madison McCauley.
“We’ve got some height,” Josefik said. “We’re just trying to get the right chemistry to get everyone involved.”
Even with a couple injuries, Gearhart figures his team will have a little depth early in the season, but is hoping to be close to 10 deep by later in the year.
“The numbers aren’t where we want them,” Gearhart said. “The girls in there are working, and the girls that aren’t are working on getting healthy.”
Leading the guards are Mara Dreibelbis and Raisa Gregor, with Abbey Bruni and Maddie Durn coming off the bench. Jess Book is a wing player, and Abbie Carr and Lauren Young will work in the paint.
So far, the second-year coach likes what he sees.
“I haven’t walked out of practices unhappy,” Gearhart said. “I have started them unhappy, but ended them in a good mood. They’re working and doing what’s asked of them.”
Centre County Christian Academy
The Lady Bulldogs have had a number of strong seasons during coach Martie Maholic’s two decades leading the program, but she may never have been as optimistic as she is this year. After years of borrowing gyms from other schools or the Bellefonte YMCA, CCCA now has a court at their disposal at Christ Community Church.
They have more time for practices on a full basketball court.
“This is the best year ever,” Maholic said. “We have never had a year like this. … It’s kind of like a new beginning.”
CCCA also has decent numbers with nine girls on the roster, although the team suffered a big loss with Hannah Boughton out for the season with an injury.
Still, the team has experience in the backcourt with Abby Maholic, Lexi Rossman, and Devan Walker, with newcomer Hannah Crafts joining them.
The frontcourt includes returners Allison Rossman and Cassandra Poorman.
“We have some speed,” Maholic said. “The way we work the ball well together and find the open player — they can be patient on offense. I think we’re going to do all right.”
With four starters returning from last season’s District 6 quarterfinal team, the Lady Rams are feeling pretty optimistic.
“They have the experience,” McCaffrey said. “They have a lot of basketball sense right now. We have great leadership from Karli (Ripka), Mackenzie (Ironside) and Maci (Ilgen). We have a great mix of experience and youth. We have people pushing each other at every position.”
Much like their Centre County counterparts, the key is staying healthy. Ripka, who missed much of last season, will be out a few weeks to start this season.
With the injuries, McCaffrey also has had a greater focus on prevention.
“We’re taking extra time warming up, and we’ve been researching how to warm up for practices,” McCaffrey said.
Kourtney Beamesderfer will step into the point guard role in Ripka’s absence, with help from Alicia Houser and Ironside.
Ilgen and Peyton Homan give the team a little size on the inside, but McCaffrey can also see several freshmen stepping onto the court this season without a noticeable drop in production.
“They are all just competitors,” McCaffrey said of her team. “We’re working hard at team bonding. That has helped us as a team. That’s important in a long season of basketball”
As Doug Myers enters his fifth season leading the Lady Mounties, he knows he has one certainty for the starting lineup: Haylee Hayward.
“She’s been the point guard since she came into the gym,” he said.
P-O returns three of its five starters from last year’s district playoff team, including Hayward, and while there isn’t much size in the paint, there is size in numbers with a roster depth of 20 girls.
The Lady Mounties have some outside shooting from the backcourt, which will also include Cheyanne Cowfer and Halle Harrington.
The frontcourt returns Cheyenne Bone and Lacey Potter, among others.
“We’re not real big, but we’ve been smaller,” Myers said.
It gives Myers confidence his team can be competitive and make another run at the postseason when February rolls around.
“It should be a good season,” Myers said. “The league is strong. … We’re looking forward to a competitive season and representing P-O well.”
St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy
In their second season as a varsity program, and fifth year overall, the Lady Wolves are starting to come into focus. They had a rocky first year with just two wins, but St. Joseph’s is working its way up.
“We’re getting the girls on the same page,” coach Brenna O’Connor said. “They are understanding the game, have a willingness to work hard — we’re building a program. Their insight helped everyone get through a difficult season.”
With their new gym open in their school, the road is a little easier this season as well.
The group includes a good mix in the frontcourt with Bella Bassett and Courtney Gregory, along with freshman Maeve McFeely. They also bring back Asara Clark, who had been a member of the program earlier, but attended State College last season.
The backcourt includes Veronia Emigh, Ana Legaspi, Bella Bevilacqua and freshman Janina Romero, and Aubrey Weiss is able to swing between the front and back courts.
“We have more returning players than I’ve ever had before,” O’Connor said. “They know what to expect. It was mostly freshmen and sophomores last year. They can play better with their peers than before, and that’s also helpful.”
The Lady Little Lions have lost Taylor Love and Alli Williams to injuries, and couple that with the graduation of four starters from last season’s District 6 title game, and there are a lot of question marks for this season.
“We’re expecting a lot from this year’s seniors,” coach Bethany Irwin said. “They will have to contribute something.”
Carrying the biggest load will be Irwin’s daughter, Kyla, a 6-foot-2 senior who has signed with perennial powerhouse Connecticut. She averaged 20 points and 13 rebounds a game last season, and brings 1,397 career points into this campaign.
But the team will need contributions from everyone.
Kayla Hawbaker will be running the point with Addie Orndorff joining her in the backcourt.
“Addie has really worked on her shot and her confidence has grown,” Bethany Irwin said. “Her points around the perimeter will be key.”
Casey Witter helped off the bench last season but figures to play a larger role with her defensive abilities, and Jess Orndorff will help out in the post.
“We need them to be ready,” Irwin said.
AT A GLANCE
Bald Eagle Area
Head coach: Jim Josefik (first season)
Assistant coaches: Mallory Moore, Tom Poorman, Marissa Ward
Last year: 4-18
Key losses: Haley Giedroc, Maddie Cingle
Returning letterwinners: Alyssa Ward, Alexis Bucha, Liz Wellar, Lexi Turner, Caylee McCaslin, Julia Cingle
Key newcomers: Morgan Chambers, Madison McCauley, Mariah Veneziano
Head coach: Adam Gearhart (second season)
Assistant coaches: Trevor Montgomery, Tom Urban, Nick Downs
Last year: 7-14
Key losses: Lexi Wetzler, Ally Steen, Marissa Moriarta
Returning letterwinners: Jess Book, Mara Dreibelbis, Raisa Gregor, Lea McCartney
Key newcomers: Abbey Bruni, Maddie Durn, Abbie Carr, Lauren Young
Centre County Christian Academy
Head coach: Martie Maholic (20th season)
Assistant coaches: Amy Smith, Janelle Reichenbach
Last year: 3-13
Key losses: Cherish Crust, Mykayla Kalmbach, Hannah Boughton (Sr., injured, out for year)
Letterwinners: Abby Maholic, Lexi Rossman, Allison Rossman, Devan Walker, Cassandra Poorman
Key newcomers: Kiara Boughton, Elle Biers, Elizabeth Hargrove, Hannah Crafts
Head coach: Karen McCaffrey (18th season overall)
Assistant coaches: Rob Irwin, Jordan Williams, Garrett Milner
Last year: 13-10, lost in District 6 Class AA quarterfinas to Tyrone
Key losses: Bethany Miller, Cheyenne Swartz, Kylie Orndorf
Returning letterwinners: Karli Ripka, Mackenzie Ironside, Maci Ilgen, Kourtney Beamesderfer, Alicia Houser
Key newcomers: Peyton Homan, Isabella Culver, Jordan Andrus, Emma Butler, Paige Kubalak
Head coach: Doug Myers (fifth season)
Assistant coaches: Dennis Arnold, Bill Myers, Terry Parks, Wes Cartwright
Last year: 7-15, lost to Penns Valley in District 6 Class AA first round
Key losses: Abby Showers, Madison Foreman, Katie Nartatez
Returning letterwinners: Haylee Hayward, Cheyenne Bone, Cheyanne Cowfer, Lacey Potter, Loryn Hughes
Key newcomers: Halle Harrington, Megan Winters
St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy
Head coach: Brenna O’Connor (fifth season)
Assistant coaches: Del Fuller, Tai Mallary, Amanda Pruss
Last year: 2-16
Key losses: Kenzie Weyant
Returning letterwinners: Veronia Emigh (So.), Bella Bassett (Jr.), Aubrey Weiss (So.), Bella Bevilacqua (Jr.), (Sr.), Ana Legaspi (So.)
Key newcomers: Maeve McFeely (Sr.), Janina Romero (Fr.)
Head coach: Bethany Irwin (23rd season, 26th overall)
Last year: 15-8, lost to Altoona in District 6, Class AAAA finals
Assistant coaches: Kelsey Gill, Rob Irwin
Key losses: Ali Treglia, Maggie Hurley, Brenna Adams, Jalyn Shelton-Burleigh
Returning letterwinners: Kyla Irwin, Casey Witter, Abby Allen, Allison Williams, Taylor Love, Ellie Strauss, Jess Orndorff, Kayla Hawbaker.
Key newcomers: Addie Orndorff, Tori Lenz, Anika Pone