In wake of injuries, Cocalico to rely on its youngsters

By on December 13, 2017

Cocalico was already down four starters to graduation from last year’s 14-10 playoff team when disaster struck in the pre-season.

The top two returnees, senior point guard Sophie Benson and junior slasher Katie Heck both went down with season-ending knee injuries. That left the Lady Eagles with just two players, 5-10 junior forward Shelby White and 5-3 junior guard Corrie Lescoe, with any kind of meaningful varsity minutes under their belts.

Talk about a tough way to start, but second-year Coach Andrew Garrett and his young squad are navigating through. And thus far, despite a pair of losses at the Exeter Tip-Off Tournament, there have been some positives the Lady Eagles’ play.

With the loss of Benson and Heck, Garrett is relying on his juniors and four talented freshman— Hannah Custer, Izzy Mack, Olivia Sensenig and Naleah Sauder— who will now be a part of the mix. An injured Jade Ringler (6-0), a transfer from Ephrata, will also eventually chip in once she gets healthy.

But how quickly those freshmen develop will ultimately be the key to success this season for the Lady Eagles.

And while growing pains are to be expected, Garrett has no doubt this group will eventually taste some success.

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

Todd Ruth: You are coming off a pretty successful 14-10 season, but you lost four seniors from that team. Then early this season you lose your top two returnees from a year ago in Sophie Benson and Katie Heck. How have those two injuries affected things in the early going?

Andrew Garrett: We knew we were losing a lot of production on the court, and leadership…that’s the other intangibles there with some of our seniors. But I also was very comfortable with the group that we were going to have this year, and that we do have. Losing our only returning senior in Sophie Benson…that was tough but it’s definitely created other opportunities for other girls to step up and that’s what we are looking to do here. Katie was the other one that was a big contributor last year. Both she and Sophie are nice leaders for us, and they are both very different in the way that they lead but they both do have a lot of those intangibles too.

TR: Looking at this past weekend, it looks like you were in both games early despite eventually losing. What did you like about the weekend from your team?

AG: Well we came out and played two really nice first quarters, which I think is more indicative of what we are capable of when we are not tired, when we’re fresh. We don’t have a lot of depth, we don’t have a lot of numbers in general so we are going to need to get in better shape so we can play more like we played in the first quarters, throughout the rest of the game. But like I said, the first quarter I think showed a little more of what we are capable of before we start getting tired and fatigue sets in and then we start having some mental mistakes and things like that.

TR: Well, to get off to quick starts like that, it kind of shows there is some talent there, don’t you think?

AG: There is no doubt about it. The girls that we are working with have experienced success at various levels leading up to this point. It’s just a big jump from where they were last year to this year, being asked to do so much at the varsity level. I have no doubt that the group we have is going to be successful. It’s just a question of how much time is it going to take to gain a little bit more experience and some time playing together. Our first scrimmage this year was the first time that we had everybody together. These girls have never really played together as a unit until the start of the season. We see a lot of the other Section Two teams over the summer whether it be summer league, at camps, at shootouts and things, and the other teams have a lot of experience in the off-season that kind of gives them a little jump-start to the season where we are a lot of multi-sport athletes so we are really trying to build that chemistry now. I have no doubt this group will be successful. It’s just going to be a question of how long it takes to jell and get into basketball shape.

TR: What are your numbers this year?

AG: We have 15 on the team but we have four out right now with injuries, and three of those are season-ending injuries. That’s where we are at.

TR: How many kids do you see playing in your rotation on a given night?

AG: Well this past weekend we had eight that played…it was four juniors and four freshmen. Jade Ringler, she’ll be out for a while but when she gets healthy she’ll add to that. I want to give the four freshmen Hannah Custer, Olivia Sensenig, Naleah Sauder and Izzy Mack, a lot of credit. They really stepped up this past weekend and were a bright spot for us. A lot of them are being asked to do more than maybe what we originally thought they’d be asked to do at this time but they’ve done a really nice job of stepping up to the challenge and contributing for us.

TR: Shelby White provided some scoring for you. Tell me a little about her game.

AG: Shelby has the skillset to do a lot of different things well. For her it’s just a matter of getting a little bit more consistency but she does have a nice skillset and can help us in a lot of different ways.

TR: What about Corrie Lescoe, I know she has some limited varsity experience?

AG: Corrie has done a really nice job. We talked about all of the intangibles and the leadership that we lost through graduation and injury but Corrie has done a nice job of stepping into that role and taking on a lot of that leadership responsibility. I’ve been impressed by the way she’s matured from last season to this season. I expect her to continue on that same track moving forward.

TR: What other girls will contribute to the varsity?

AG: Hanah Greenly and Addie Landis both have had a really nice pre-season. They are hard working and dependable. I think overall I’m really happy with the group of girls that we have. We don’t have large numbers but the girls we do have are really great kids and have great attitudes and are very coachable. I really think because of that we are really going to grow and improve a lot throughout the season. Because of the youth and lack of experience right now, I think we probably do have room to grow and improve maybe more than any other team in our section. That’s what I would expect, our team to see and people to see by the end of the year.

TR: What kind of goals have you guys set as a team?

AG: I am very comfortable with the group of girls that we have, and like I said I think they are going to experience a lot of success in their careers. The big question mark is how long are things going to take? For that reason it’s kind of hard to put expectations on this team. If we come together and things go a little quicker than expected, they could experience a lot of that success sooner rather than later, but other things are just going to take some time.

TR: Looking at the section, what teams do you feel will challenge?

AG: I think everybody would agree that L-S is the favorite. I mean they won it last year and return a lot of fire power. But I think the section as a whole is going to be improved from last season to this season. A lot of teams return a good portion of their squads. Solanco is going to be pretty good. Garden Spot had a really nice weekend, and Ephrata had two nice games. Donegal has a decent amount of talent. Losing Rachel Robinson makes it that it’s kind of hard to gauge because of how many things she did on the floor last year but I think they’ll be good too.

TR: As for you guys, if you can hold it together early, I see you getting a lot better and really being a tough team down the stretch. Do you agree?

AG: The biggest thing is the girls and their attitudes. If they continue the way they’ve done so far we are going to really improve a lot throughout the year. I think it will be a lot of fun.


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