While graduation might have cost Palmyra most of its starting lineup and some of its depth, that doesn’t mean highly successful head girls’ basketball coach Ron Berman is backing down from another challenge.
Nor is Berman about to lighten his club’s schedule.
Berman has his team squaring off against two-time PIAA Class AAAA champion Cumberland Valley and two-time PIAA Class AAA runner-up Archbishop Wood in the first of its two preseason scrimmage dates.
“We’ll try to get our game up to a high level,” Berman said recently.
Pilot your program to the state semifinals each of the past two seasons — last year in Class AAAA and a season earlier in Class AAA — and some mighty high standards are firmly in place for a program that’s 104-16 since the 2011-12 year tipped off.
Even if everyone involved is going through a transition period.
“We have three kids that have seen a whole lot of varsity action, and the others are going to have to try to fit in,” Berman said. “Not only Molly Gundermann, but a kid like Josie Stovall — and I consider them very experienced players — they’re now in new roles. They were the fourth or fifth option, all of a sudden they’re one or two.”
The Cougars’ lone returning starter and one of Berman’s four seniors, the 5-10 Gundermann last season averaged 10.0 points per contest as Palmyra wheeled to the Mid Penn Keystone Division title before embarking on another lengthy yet thrilling postseason charge that took them to the District Three Class AAAA final and more.
Gundermann will partner up front with 5-10 classmate Stovall (5.8 ppg), who enjoyed a strong second half after returning from the injured list.
Kailey Werkheiser (2.1 ppg) and Shannon Carmo (0.5 ppg), a pair of 5-7 guards, are the other seniors Berman is counting on — especially early.
“You always like to keep it going, and I always tell the kids that it’s a new journey, and we’ll see where the trip takes us,” Berman said of trying to continue Palmyra’s recent level of success. “Nothing’s ever guaranteed.
“We have four hard-working seniors, and we have some good underclassmen,” Berman continued. “We will be competitive. Whether we’ll be that type of team (again), the odds are against us — but I never count my kids out.”
Berman admitted this Cougars edition isn’t as deep as the bunch he guided last season that utilized a seven- or eight-player rotation. And while he’s hoping to avoid a rash of injuries, he also might shorten the playbook this time around.
“You don’t lower your standards, and you don’t lower your expectations,” Berman said. “You do maybe cut down on certain things. We won’t put in as much as we normally do. We won’t have as many specialty plays as we normally do.
“Things that we can try to focus, especially at the beginning, try to do less things better and at the standard we want.”
While Palmyra also is shooting for yet another Keystone Division crown — the Cougars have won three of the last four — Berman believes the eight-team circuit might be much more balanced than it has been.
So, it should be another interesting year for Palmyra’s hoops partisans.
Perhaps another season flush with success.
“They certainly don’t want to be the team not to have a winning team or not to play in districts,” Berman said. “We’ve had 14 winning seasons in a row, and 13 of those (those teams were) in districts. There’s a lot of pride there.”
PALMYRA GIRLS AT A GLANCE
Coach: Ron Berman (16th season, 312-106; 27th season overall, 463-238)
Last year’s record: 27-5, 13-1 in Mid Penn Keystone Division
Returning starters: Molly Gundermann (5-10, Sr., F)
Other top players: Josie Stovall (5-10, Sr, F), Kailey Werkheiser (5-7, Sr, G), Shannon Carmo (5-7, Sr, G)
Season opener: Dec. 4 vs. Pine Grove, Northern Lebanon Tournament