Successful soccer season has Canajoharie girls basketball program playing catch-up


CANAJOHARIE -- Coming into the start of practice out of shape wasn't a problem for the bulk of the Canajoharie High School girls basketball team.

Most of the Lady Cougars were members of the school's girls soccer team during the fall, which captured the Section II Class C championship and eventually fell to Northern Adirondack in the regional finals. Two days after their soccer season ended, they were in the gym for their first basketball practice, tuning up for a Nov. 29 season opener against Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville in the Lady Cougars' home tip-off tournament.

It's been a sudden switch, but not one the Canajoharie players are too worried about.

"It was a weird transition, but a good one," senior Lauren Balfe said Wednesday prior to a scrimmage against Mekeel Christian Academy. "We're still in that transition from soccer to basketball, since it's only been a week."

"The good thing is, coming from soccer to basketball, you're already in really good shape," senior Jenelle Dillenbeck added. "We've just got to work on shooting and playing as a team."

Balfe, Dillenbeck, Ariannah Logan, Jordyn Logan, Dainara Veeder and Andrea Dingman were all members of the soccer team, and second-year Lady Cougars head coach Joe Fowler said that while the changeover in seasons for most of his players was extremely fast, they've adapted well.

"It was a long soccer season, and now we're getting the acclimated back into the basketball realm. It's taken its toll, but their faring very well," Fowler said.

With the start of a season barely a week away, however, Fowler was anxious for his team to scrimmage MCA Thursday. Canajoharie will follow that with another scrimmage Monday before facing O-E-SJ Friday in the opening round of a tournament that also includes Galway and Fonda-Fultonville.

"We're trying to see what we've got and see where we go," Fowler said.

And while he may be overseeing a quick switch from one sport to another, Fowler does have the luxury of having the bulk of his team back in the fold from a season ago -- the Lady Cougars graduated just three players from a young team that was uneven at points last season before being eliminated by Berne-Knox-Westerlo in the first round of the Section II Class C playoffs.

"Young team last year, and it's still quite young," he said. "The sophomores I had last year are now juniors, but they have experience and that's gonna make for a real nice season."

With Dillenbeck, Balfe, the Logans and Veeder, Canajoharie certainly won't lack for speed and athleticism in the backcourt, while Abby Dearwester will be looked on to provide size and strength in the post to support the speedy guards around her.

"We've got some speed, some good ballhandlers. I think we'll be ready for the season," Balfe said.

One thing's for sure: Fowler's glad that his team's season will start Thanksgiving weekend, giving him a chance to truly measure up where the Lady Cougars stand before Western Athletic Conference play gets underway the following week.

"We need to see where we're at," Fowler said. "This is gonna be, I believe, a fun season. This is really gonna be fun."


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