The 1996-97 girls basketball season is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in Baltimore County in years. That is, if coaches can sideline one of last year's major role players -- injury.
Nearly every county public school girls team that vied for a title last winter, including state semifinalists Perry Hall and Catonsville, struggled with at least one injury.
Perry Hall lost almost its entire junior class for the season, while Catonsville's second-team All-Metro forward Shannon Rexrode played through postseason with a torn rotator cuff in her shoulder.
Defending county champion Milford Mill spent the early part of the season without center Crystal Dent (back injury). Forward Dyanna Mitchell also missed time with a sprained ankle.
All those teams managed to contend despite their injured players. Loch Raven, however, wasn't so fortunate.
The Raiders lost both of their top guards and ended up 5-16. Susan Giannaccini sat out after an ankle injury suffered during soccer season, while Anne Mobley missed nearly the whole season with a broken leg.
Perry Hall coach Linda Caccavalla attributes the prevalence of injuries to a lack of conditioning among athletes who play one club sport while competing for their high school in another.
"The kids think they're conditioning but they're not -- they're playing a sport," said Caccavalla.
"They go from soccer game to basketball game to lacrosse game. They don't do running outside of the game," she said. "These kids don't have practice. There's no repetition, so they're not building anything. I know some of it is freak accidents, but the body just can't sustain all those hard days."
The Gators, who figure to be among the county's top teams in the new season, already have lost shooting guard Jessica Kelly for the season.
Kelly, who missed much of last year with a broken finger, suffered a serious wrist injury before practice even began. In mid-November she had surgery so pins could be inserted to hold broken bones together.
While staying healthy is certainly a key to making a run at a county or regional title, so is a strong comeback for some of the players who missed the latter part of last season.
The Gators are counting heavily on the return of forward Kelly O'Sullivan and guard Kerri Sirian. O'Sullivan missed three-quarters of last season with sprained ankles. Sirian had a cyst removed from a knee in mid-December, but just as she prepared to come back, she found out she needed surgery to remove a cyst from her other knee.
At Towson, point guard Sara Lev should rejoin the Generals in two weeks after recovering from knee surgery last spring. The junior suffered a minor knee injury that sidelined her for the basketball playoffs in Februrary. She recovered in time to play DTC lacrosse only to tear an anterior cruciate ligament.
Defending Sharp Shooters Division champ Eastern Tech and runner-up Lansdowne are counting on a couple of top players returning from early-season injuries. Although neither team can contend for the county title, both have postseason aspirations that may hinge on the health of these veterans.
Eastern guard Shannell Carter sprained a wrist and had the arm in a cast until Monday. Lansdowne center Christine Happel also returned this week after suffering a couple of fractured fingers during volleyball season.
Pub Date: 12/05/96