Cocalico could challenge in wide-open Section Two

By on December 14, 2016
Emily Fassnacht

Emily Fassnacht

Like Ephrata, Cocalico was a team that was hit hard by graduation.

The Lady Eagles saw 1,000-point scorer Emily White leave the nest, along with banger Megan Gingrich and defensive stopper Jasa Lorah.

That core led the Lady Eagles to an outstanding 18-6 season a year ago which ended with both L-L and District playoff appearances.

With that dynamite trio gone, not to mention Coach Tony DiMatteo, who stepped down following last season, Cocalico will look to re-group and make another run in 2016-17 under new Head Coach Andrew Garrett, a long-time assistant under DiMatteo.

This year’s squad is a nice blend of solid veterans and newcomers who will be looking to break the lineup.

The Lady Eagles do return a core of five seniors which includes: Emily Fassnacht, Lyndsay Engle, Sophie Benson, Maddie Bock and Samantha Klumpp.

Expect some growing pains early as the newcomers get acclimated to the varsity level. If they can mature quickly, expect Cocalico to be in contention as the Lady Eagles jump up to a wide-open Section Two this season.

Recently, Review Sports Editor Todd Ruth chatted with Garrett about the season. the following is a transcript of their conversation:

Todd Ruth: I saw you were without seniors Emily Fassnacht and Maddie Bock this weekend. what is their status?

Andrew Garrett: We had them out all weekend and I’m not sure what their status is going to be going forward. I think they should be coming back soon but I think they both are going to have things that are nagging. The question is, can we get it so it doesn’t get any worse that they can manage it? We’ll have to see.

TR: You guys opened this season this past weekend at the Exeter Tournament missing those two key players. To go 1-1, I know you faced a real tough Central Dauphin team in the opener but did you feel good about the weekend overall?

AG: The way we played against Central Dauphin in the first half I was very proud of our girls. Being down a couple girls to begin with, I was very happy. We started out the game and you could tell we have a lot of inexperience. We lost a lot of experience from last year.. I still think we have some talent but our inexperience showed at the very start of the game. You could tell we were a little nervous, and for some of the girls it was their first real varsity exposure. We started out the game down 7-0 so we called a time-out and got them to calm down. And then we out-scored them the rest of the first half. We got them in foul trouble and that obviously helps but I think part of that was because of what we were doing. We were being aggressive and taking it at them. That caused them to switch up to a zone in the second half and we were missing some of our shooters so that kind of hurt. But I thought they played tough on Friday, and then we were able to bounce back on Saturday.

TR: Glancing at your roster, you lost five seniors, including a 1,000-point scorer in Emily White, not to mention an inside presence like Megan Gingrich and a solid defender in Jasa Lorah. How do you replace them?

AG: I think the biggest thing is really not trying to replace them because the only way you can replace them is if you have girls with the same exact skill set, and we don’t. We have a completely different team this year, which there are pros and cons to that. Losing some of the players that we lost is obviously going to be negative but there are pros as well as far as different types of strengths that our team can have, team chemistry as a whole…everything changes and now it’s a matter of being the best version of what we have.

TR: The transition with the coaching staff from from Tony to you, I mean you have been with him so long, that had to help things go more smoothly?

AG: This is my ninth year in the program. I spent the last five years under Tony, but then I also teach at the high school so between being with these girls their entire high school career, and also being with them during the school day, I think the transition has been pretty seamless. I share a lot of the same philosophies. Tony and I worked hard together, so a lot of that is similar. But, I’m not Tony, so there are some differences also. But the girls have responded well. I think hopefully the differences have helped kind of make things refreshing. It’s not completely foreign to them but at the same time it’s slightly different to the point where hopefully that gets them interested and gets them to buy in on things.

TR: As far as your personnel is concerned, you have a pretty good mix of experienced kids like Emily Fassnacht, Lyndsay Engle, Maddie Bock, Sam Klumpp and Sophie Benson, as well as new kids. What’s your take on that?

AG: Those (veteran) girls are definitely going to be who we are going to rely on the most. But we have some seniors that can contribute and we have some younger girls who have the skill to contribute. The biggest thing is the inexperience, and that’s just going to take some time. We saw some of that over the weekend. On Saturday, we got in foul trouble and Lyndsay and Sophie both fouled out. So, pretty much the entire second half, and we are already down Emily and Maddie, you are looking at four of your starters who didn’t play the second half. Some of those younger girls just got thrown into the fire.

TR: With that core of five veteran senior who do return, what are your expectations of them?

AG: Athleticism…I think that is the biggest thing. It’s pretty much a lot of multi-sport athletes. A lot of those names are names you probably cover in soccer, lacrosse and everything. Even Emily Fassnacht, she is only playing one sport now but she’s played soccer, has records for track…but the biggest thing for us right now is just staying healthy.

TR: Emily has shown flashes in the past of being a top scorer, although she had to share the court with some pretty good players. Now, in her senior season, do you see her taking that next step?

AG: I think she has the potential to do that but I also think this is going to be a team where it’s really going to be a team effort. There can be games where Lyndsay can step up, and she kind of really helped lead the way Saturday. Sam Klumpp has looked really good in the pre-season, and Maddie Bock can score. Maddie can shoot. If she catches fire she can shoot the lights out. And Sophie has really stepped up her ability to score, but I still think she needs to get use to playing at the varsity level. I think all of those girls have the ability to lead us for a couple minute stretch or a quarter or whatever…kind of share the load.

TR: Who are some of the other girls you see stepping up and vying for minutes?

AG: So far we’ve had (Kierra) Haldeman, Bethany Moser, Corrie Lescoe, Hanah Greenly, Katie Heck…Katie DiCiano is one who tore her ACL at the very end of last season, and she really would have helped us but I’m still hopeful that she’ll start getting back into her basketball form. That injury hurt her.

TR: So you are looking at possibly a rotation of 11?

AG: Well, that’s where we are starting but there is no way we are going to be able to have a rotation of 11 people. Those are the girls who will get opportunities early on, but then throughout the year we are going to have to trim that down a little bit, and that will be based on how they do.

TR: Looking at this team, I see a bunch of quality athletes out there. Do you see that athleticism as one of your team’s biggest strengths?

AG: Yeah, I think so. I think we have a lot of athletes, and we’re trying to work on them becoming better basketball players. A lot of them are not really pure basketball players, and I can’t change what I can’t control so we might as well make the most of what we have, and the thing we do have is a lot of athleticism. We need to be a good defensive team, which our athleticism will help us do, and we need to push the basketball and be able to run the floor. I think that’s what our strength will be.

TR: Looking at your team you are lacking a bit in size, don’t you agree?

AG: Sam Klumpp is one of our ball handlers and she’s probably the tallest one out there at around 5-10. Sarah Dunn is probably six foot but she is out right now with an injury. We have 19 on the team between JV and varsity and last week before we started games we started practice with probably around 11 or 12. It’s not the way you want to start the year. You’d like to be able to start the year healthy, and then worry about managing things as they come up, but you don’t want to start behind the eight ball like that.

TR: Well, look at it this way, you are getting those younger girls playing time that they might not have gotten.

AG: That’s what we’ve been focusing on. We’ve been telling the girls it’s going to be an opportunity for them and they took advantage of it on Saturday.

TR: If we are talking weaknesses, or some place you need to get better, what do you think there?

AG: Height is a weakness but that’s not something we are going to be able to control. Our physicality…we can be more physical. And we have that in us some times. When we get angry, we’ll be physical but it can’t just be out of control. It has to be something we do all of the time. And then I’d say shooting. We still need to get into our mid-season form, but part of that is the fact that these girls aren’t year-round basketball players. It’s how long is it going to take us to get into mid-season form? Some of these other schools we’ve been scrimmaging, they are in mid-season form. We are not. That’s kind of the way it is around here, and that’s fine. We’ll still make the most of it but we just need to see how long it’s going to take us to reach our potential.

TR: Heading into your first season as head coach, what kinds of goals have you set for your team?

AG: I think Section Two is wide open. I don’t think we are the favorite but I do think that we can compete for it. Just focusing on who is in our section, I think that should be our first priority. And then outside of there, we’ve had a nice run here of qualifying for Districts so we’d like to keep that going.

TR: Speaking of the section, do you see any team that may be considered the favorite?

AG: I think L-S…they just had a big win on Saturday. I think L-S has been playing well and they’ve been playing a lot of basketball. They are probably closer to reaching their potential now. I’d say Donegal…they have (Rachel) Robinson back this year and she’s a great player. Ephrata, Stauffer is one of the best players in the league so once they get her back they should be tough. I think it’s going to be a very even section. I don’t think you can say there is a definitive favorite but if I had to pick one right now I’d probably say L-S.



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