Youth dominates WHS girls’ roster

By on December 13, 2017
Warwick’s Julia Forsythe is one of four returning juniors who will be counted on to help lead the team this year

Warwick’s Julia Forsythe is one of four returning juniors who will be counted on to help lead the team this year

The Warwick girls basketball team will have a new look this winter.

A much younger look, to be sure.

Such is the case when you graduate five seniors who played varsity since their freshman campaign. Included in that group was Rylee Derr, the program’s second all-time leading scorer with 1,378 career points.

“They played together (a long time),” Warwick’s third-year coach Janelle Garber said. “Losing a player like Rylee … she’s just a force to be reckoned with. It’s great to see her doing so well at Kutztown.”

With those five no longer wearing the red-and-black colors, others will get their opportunity for the Lady Warriors, who are coming off a 2016-17 season in which they went 7-14 overall (3-11 Section One).

It will be no small task. The current roster has no seniors to help lead the way. In fact, more than half of Warwick’s players — eight of 15 — are freshmen.

“We are very young,” Garber said. “They’re great kids. We’re trying to get them to realize what it takes to play at the next level. And I don’t mean college – I just mean competitive. There’s a lot of potential with them. But they just have to learn the basics.”

Certainly, the Warwick girls will lean heavily on their junior class, which consists of Julia Forsythe, Abby Rodgers, Sydney Weismandel and Emily Williamson. Rodgers and Weismandel shared game-high scoring honors in Warwick’s first win of the season with 11 points apiece last Saturday, beating East Pennsboro 39-21.

“We’re relying on the juniors heavily to step up and be leaders,” Garber said. “That gives them a lot of pressure as well and we’re trying to help them step up to the plate.”

Williamson, who will play at point guard, was unavailable for the Cedar Cliff Tournament with a knee injury, but she’s expected back soon.

“(Emily)’s like a commander on the court,” Garber said. “We’re hoping that she’s ready this week.”

Sophomore guard Lailani Batty is also back after averaging 6.2 ppg a year ago.

“Lani’s a great athlete,” Garber said. “She will contribute this year. We’re looking for her to be aggressive defensively, as she is. She’s very aggressive. And offensively, we’re looking for her to drive to the basket.”

Tanner Armstrong, Elise Balmer, Reagan Longridge, Lauren Pyle, and Lauren Reinhart are among the freshmen who should also be in the mix.

“I see the freshmen, through a couple of games, stepping up and making an impact on the team,” Garber remarked. “I have a lot of confidence in them. Just their work ethic and mentality, you can’t teach that.”

A former star player at Elizabethtown, Garber knows, however, that the ninth-graders will need some time to acclimate themselves to the varsity game.

“Freshmen are freshmen, they need time to adjust to the level of competition,” Warwick’s coach remarked. “But sometimes it doesn’t take long for them to adjust. Slowly but surely through practices, they’re earning their time. It’s not like we have a starting five set in stone. Whoever comes to work hard at practice, whoever delivers on the court will play.”

Pyle started both of the Lady Warriors’ scrimmages and opened eyes during the pre-season.

“(Lauren)’s a great athlete,” Garber said. “She’s a competitor, she works hard, and she has natural ability. She will definitely help out.”

Armstrong and Forsythe each scored five points to lead Warwick in a 60-15 loss to Cedar Cliff last Friday and Balmer chipped in with three.

“Elise is just a worker,” Garber said. “She plays post for us. She’ll do anything and everything we ask her to do and she’s just a workhorse.”

Longridge, too, has shown a lot of promise in the early going.

“Reagan is a competitor. She will do anything it takes to win,” Garber said.

Given the graduation losses that Warwick suffered and the youth of this year’s team, the pundits won’t be picking them to place atop the Section. But nonetheless, Garber is hoping to see her squad battle in games this winter.

“I hate saying it’s a rebuilding year because we have these kids and I think the expectations should still be high,” she said. “My goals, I guess, are to create basketball habits. They’re a great group of girls. Just to be competitive in the league and competitive in games I’d say would be a goal … There is a lot of potential there. (My hope) is to create the sense that they are able to get there if they put in the work. They have the ability. Every one of them does. I have a lot of confidence in them. We just have to keep working together as a team.”

It will take a team effort from the Lady Warriors to knock off some of Section One’s heavyweights. Warwick opens Section play this Friday, Dec. 15 hosting Penn Manor.

“Township, I would say (is a team to beat),” Garber said. “Cedar Crest looked pretty good (Friday) night (in a 59-34 win over East Pennsboro). Hempfield, as well. Cedar Crest lost Ariel (Jones) and (Alyssa) Austin, but they still have good players. They have three-point shooters, they can press, they’re tough inside, they rebound. Typical Cedar Crest.”

No doubt, there could be some bumps in the road for Warwick, like the one they had in their 60-15 loss to Cedar Cliff last Friday. But the Lady Warriors are hoping to learn from those experiences.

“I told the girls, ‘That score is not good. But if we take this game and grow from it and it makes us more competitive throughout the season, that’s a winning game. If we take it and we move on and don’t really improve and we’re OK with playing like that, then that’s a losing game,’” Garber said. “So that’s how I approach (Friday)’s game. The score doesn’t always depict winners and losers, but it depends how we go forward from here. So we’ll see.”

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