Well into their season, the junior varsity girls basketball team has been hard at work building skills, gaining experience, and racking up a few wins along the way.
At 10-and-5, their overall record isn't really that far behind that of their friends and mentors on the varsity squad. In fact, a number of the JV lasses pull double duty on both teams.
With the exception of older players who find their way to the team for rehab work following illness or injury, the JV squad is composed entirely of sophomores and freshmen.
"We have programs from fifth grade up," says Coach Cynthia Tillger.
"Unlike some schools we don't have a freshmen program. The girls come here right after they're done with junior high and there's a huge difference between 8th grade basketball and JV. It can be a struggle for the girls at times."
Tillger has no set list of starting players. Who hits the hardwood first is largely determined by who has been working hard and who is healthy.
Lately, players such as Irene Dispenza, Caitlin Gregory, and Skylar Wirth get nods to start. While each has great ability, they also each possess leadership skills and winning attitudes.
Dispenza is quick to encourage her teammates whether she's on the court or taking a break on the sideline.
Wirth zips onto the court with gusto and often outpaces opponents.
Gregory keeps smiling even when the chips are down.
Logging time in varsity games is also nothing unusual for most of the JV ladies either.
Against East Stroudsburg North in exhibition play, Gregory and Wirth netted varsity points while Dispenza is a regular contributor to the varsity basket tally.
Frequently, the varsity squad gets out ahead with big leads and that means valuable court time for younger players such as Amber Krautter, Monika Smallwood; and Molly Jansco. After one such game earlier in the season, Varsity Coach Adam Holtzer commented,
Page 2 of 2 - "Playing at that speed definitely helps the younger players develop and I'm always happy to have them get some court time."
With four seniors set to graduate after this season, many of the JV players will be heading to the varsity squad next season.
"I expect the sophomores will most likely move up," says Tillger. "And Emily Winkler has been playing on the JV team after returning from an illness, so she could get bumped back up before the end of this season."
Tillger also notes up-and-coming players such as Jansco and Lauren Geotz could see a lot of time with both squads as well. Both freshmen, Geotz already logs time occasionally with the upperclassmen and Jansco is growing into the game and finding out what roles suit her the best."
There will be a void to fill next season when this year's seniors depart.
While their absence may change the dynamic of the Lady Bucks game, it doesn't necessarily spell disaster. In fact, it could prove quite the opposite.
The JV players waiting in the wings possess skill and drive as well as experience.
The hard work and effort they put in now will undoubtedly only serve to help them in the future.