Winning one state championship is impressive, and winning a second consecutive one is even more so. But winning three in a row is all kinds of difficult, and the 2015-16 Londonderry High girls’ basketball squad stands as a superb example of just why that’s so.
The Lady Lancers have won each of the last two Division I hoop championships, which is nothing short of exceptional because that division is incredibly tough each year.
The LHS ladies won the 2013-14 crown for retiring veteran coach John Fagula, and despite the losses of a number of key players from that title-winning crew to graduation and transfer the Lady Lancers bagged a second straight D-I crown for first-year coach Nick Theos last winter.
That squad included a bunch of talented, battle-tested veterans like Tara Burke, Brittany Roche, Ashley Berube, Kelsey Coffey, Jackie Luckhardt, and Jenna Conroy who had the skills and poise to keep their team up at the championship level.
But a slew of hoopsters who helped to make that 2014-15 title a possibility have departed, leaving the likes of Luckhardt and Coffey to stand at the center of a younger squad which would like nothing more than to manage a three-peat which will no doubt be a difficult task this winter.
Losing key players season after championship season forces a team to bring in less tested or brand new players to fill vital roles. And if there’s a drop-off in talent or depth, winning another title becomes even tougher for the reigning champs.
“We need to continue to build and work together to find our strengths and weaknesses,” said coach Theos. “We lost 10 players off of last year’s playoff roster, and we have a ton of newcomers to the varsity team. I hope we can be competitive throughout the season, and by the end of the season we will be hitting our stride.”
As the key returning members of the 20-2, title-winning 2014-15 squad, starters Luckhardt (a senior guard) and Coffey (junior guard) will no doubt be extremely good under pressure again and hard to frazzle.
The other returnees include experienced seniors Katie Balcom (forward), Kat Wells (guard), and Shannon Sonia (forward), and the LHS contingent’s promising newcomers include sophomores Mercedes Greeley (forward) and Michaela Downing (guard) and freshman Ashley Evans (center).
And in looking at the makeup of Division I this season as opposing teams aim to knock the Lady Lancers off of their throne, Theos said, “Bishop Guertin, Bedford, and Winnacunnet are all very strong and deep this year.”
The team will kick off the new season on Friday, Dec. 11 at home against the Alvirne High Lady Broncos of Hudson.