NEW BRITAIN - The Plainville girls basketball team only won three games a season ago, but this one seemed like it would be different as the Blue Devils won three of their first five games. Then came the injury bug.
Key players Caitlin Barker and Cheyenne Emmendorfer have been lost for the season. Barker tore her ACL, while Emmendorfer is out with mono. All the while, Taleah McCrorey is just working her way back from a knee injury too.
For a team that wasn’t very deep to begin with, these injuries have been killers and as a result, Plainville has now lost its last eight games, including a 67-39 loss to New Britain Tuesday night.
“The biggest thing to tell the kids is it’s a process,” said first year head coach Jessica Neuweiler. “We are facing some adversity that we did not expect to face and I am trying to keep them believing in what we are trying to build. My thing is that you can’t give up.
“Against New Britain, it seemed like once they started to chip away, we retreated instead of being the team that I know we are building who would dig in and fight. We just need to continue to work through this adversity and get better every day.”
Emmendorfer and Barker were not only starters for the Blue Devils, but are also among the more talented players on the team. There aren’t many teams that can lose two starters and maintain the level of play it had with those players and Plainville is just another example of that.
It’s not just on the court where injuries like this could affect the team, but could also creep into the healthy players’ heads that the season has slipped away. That is exactly what Neuweiler has been trying to avoid.
“I told the girls we are never going to win with just one player,” she said. “It’s always going to take all of us to win. So I think whether we have one key player out or two key players out, we have to figure out with who we have in that locker room any given night how we are going to win. My message to them right now is that this is our new reality.”
Neuweiler was adamant that the losing streak that has coincided with the injuries has not been because her team is throwing in the towel. Of course, it is going to take an adjustment period when two key pieces go down like that, but the work is being put in to figure it out sooner rather than later.
“They are working extremely hard,” Neuweiler said. “I knew it would be a process coming in and I knew it would take some team to teach these girls how to win. Obviously losing key players doesn’t help with that process, but I do think we are on the right track and I think we have the right people in that locker room to figure this out.”
As for the frustration level of the team considering the promising start to the season, Neuweiler says that for the most part, everyone is keeping a positive attitude.
“I am not frustrated with the long-term,” Neuweiler said. “I am more frustrated by the way we reacted when things started going south [against New Britain]. I also think that we need to do a better job of controlling the things we can control, like foul trouble. Those are my only frustrations other than that we can’t control injuries so we have to do what we can.
“I think the players are getting a little frustrated by the losing, but I think they know that learning to win is going to take a little bit of time. We just have to get over the hump. I really hope that these struggles pay off in the end. There is no doubt that those injuries hurt us, but we need to keep working to get those wins that I think we should be getting.”
Michael Woolfson can be reached at 860-801-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org