With its two most prolific players — seniors Olivia Healy and Morgan O’Brien — returning, 15-year coach Kim Penney was optimistic that in her final season at the helm the Rockets could recapture the Middlesex League and Division 2 state championship titles.
But O’Brien, who will play at Assumption College next year after averaging 16.9 points last season, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament attempting a layup in late November.
“She’s irreplaceable in the fact that she can create her own offense, she’s the best 3-point shooter to ever play in Reading, and she scored 33 points” in the championship game at the Garden last year, said Penney.
Penney is now scrambling to redefine roles and develop team chemistry.
The Rockets have seven returning players, including four who have already been designated starters: Healy — who last season averaged 21.8 points and will play at Richmond next fall — and seniors Katie Starble , Meghan Stanford, and Siobhan O’Sullivan . The fifth starter is still undetermined.
“We had a meeting to talk about our strengths and weaknesses as individuals and we went down the line,” said Penney. “I said what I thought about every player in front of everybody. We were very honest.
“They have to understand their strengths and what we need them to do for our team to be successful. Whether it’s the position they want to play or not, they have to do it. They’re good kids and they get it.”
Having already defended its state title twice, Andover knows the challenges and obstacles it must overcome to reach the pinnacle.
Inevitably, these are lessons that both Pentucket and Reading are about to learn.
Paul Lazdowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.