Injuries are a part of any sports season. However, rarely do they affect the majority of a team for an extended period of time.
Newark High’s entire starting lineup missed three consecutive weeks last season with a variety of injuries. And of course, as bad luck would have it, the injuries occurred during the three busiest weeks of the season in terms of number of games played.
In the end, the Yellowjackets still managed to win seven games for the third consecutive year, which gives head coach Jim Schulte reason for optimism heading into the 2019-20 campaign.
“I think we’re going to have a great season if the bug doesn’t strike again,” the second-year coach said a few days before the team’s opener against St. Mark’s.
Among those bit by the injury bug was junior Johnany Farrell. She missed almost the entire season, so Schulte is excited to have her back to full strength.
“She came on for us at the end of the year,” he explained. “She is a great shooter and excellent defender.”
Senior Selana Whelan missed the latter part of the season after averaging 10 points per game.
“She is my workhorse,” Schulte said.
Junior point guard Gia Pipkin returns to engineer the Yellowjacket offense and will be a key factor on both ends of the floor.
“Gia is our best defender and a good point guard,” Schulte said.
The team’s top returning rebounder is senior Tiffany Wiley and a pair of sophomores, Catherine Osinubi and Brianna Espinal, are expected to see a lot of minutes. Espinal gives the team another ball handler and is a good outside shooter. Osinubi has proven early on to be a solid defender in the paint, which goes along with Schulte’s overall philosophy.
“My philosophy is the same [my second year] – play a tough defense and our offense will follow,” he explained.
Newark’s scrimmages revealed a reason for optimism. The Yellowjackets tied Smyrna 16-16 and defeated McKean 53-24 before dropping their final preseason test, 32-28, to Delaware Military Academy.
“If how we played in the scrimmages is how we play during the season, we’re going to have a successful season,” Schulte pointed out.
Schulte also has a new coach on the bench with him. Ben Dorsey, who previously coached at Hodgson, has coached on a few teams that have reached the semifinals.
“Ben brings me an experienced coach on the bench,” Schulte said.
Schulte also has a reason to be optimistic because the team’s best player, according to him, wasn’t even on the team last year. And senior Dymond Gordon didn’t disappoint in her varsity debut, scoring eight points in a 51-32 loss to St. Mark’s.
“She’s our best all-around player,” Schulte said. “She loves to drive.”
Other newcomers expected to see playing time are sophomore Gabrielle Appiah and freshmen Sanai Hayman and Dezarai Woolford.
“Gabrielle is my big girl in the paint and a good rebounder,” Schulte said. “Sanai is a great ball handler who I’m looking forward to seeing come off the bench and starting on occasion. Dezarai is a good ball handler who will be coming off the bench.”
Newark’s second game is Friday at Concord, and Schulte hopes his team will head into the weekend with its first win of the young season.
“I learned [in our scrimmages] we have a very good defense,” Schulte said. “We are working on discipline because we got in foul trouble quick, and teamwork on offense. If we can combine those two with how we played defense and hustled we’re in good shape come Friday against Concord.”