For the Cooperstown girls basketball team, defending its Section Three Class C championship was always going to be a tough task, but it seems to be getting harder as the season begins.
For CCS, replacing graduates Sumer Murdock and Nicole Cring was never going to be possible. Cring’s defensive intensity and rebounding and Murdock’s clutch shooting and rebounding propelled the team to the section title and almost to the state finals. As a result both were named to the Class C All State team, and Murdock was named the Center State Conference Division III player of the year.
If possible, their leadership was even more important than their stats for Cooperstown.
So it was always going to be tough to defend the title this year after losing those two players. In addition, the team lost forward Alannah Haggerty, an intense player and three-sport star who is now playing college soccer at Wilkes University. But coach Mike Niles has a number of good guards to fill in for Murdock and on paper had good athletes to try to replace Cring and Haggerty inside.
Then Cooperstown lost Caitlin Briggs to a rotary exchange and Ellen Vibbard to a torn ACL. While neither played a huge role on last year’s team, both are tall girls, and Vibbard, in particular, had strong moments on the court last season and even better ones in soccer and softball in 2013.
That leaves Niles with a limited bench inside. Senior center Lucy Ford and sophomores Mallory Arthurs and Ciara McGoldrick will have to step up for Cooperstown to have any chance of a post-season run.
It isn’t hopeless. Ford, after all, is a state champion in the high jump, and Niles said he is very happy with the potential of Arthurs and McGoldrick. But the Hawkeyes started the season 2-2 before beating Herkimer on Monday, and Niles has been experimenting with a four-guard line up.