HAMPTON — The start of the season has not been kind to Cassie Turcotte and the Winnacunnet High School girls basketball team.
The Warriors, who entered this year riding a seven-game losing streak to end the 2017-18 campaign, brought back just one returning starter and two others who saw consistent varsity minutes last season.
One of those players, senior captain Marisa Lamprey, sustained an ankle injury in the fourth game of the regular season and has missed the last three games. The hope is that Lamprey is back by the end of month.
Katelyn Charette, who would be a sophomore this year and showed much promise during an injury-riddled freshman season, transferred to Brewster Academy. Senior Kennedy McCarthy, who saw her share of time last year at the varsity level, joined the track team.
So, Turcotte knew the Warriors would be in for a tough season lacking experienced varsity players at the Division I level.
“Everybody goes through seasons like this,” said Turcotte, who entered this season with a record of 80-43 in her first six seasons as head coach. “I think we have the right attitude. We have a great story of resiliency and grit with this program and (these kids) come in and work every day.”
The Warriors have lost their first seven games of the season by an average of 28 points, and now have lost 14 straight games. The last win for Winnacunnet came last January against Exeter.
“This is my first year not having a winning record (9-10 last season), but for me it doesn’t feel like it because I have a group of athletes who battle it every single time they get on the floor,” Turcotte said. “As I say to them if you don’t look at the score clock and you just go by how the game feels, (the game) feels a lot closer than it is. We may not be connecting on our shots right now, we may have some skills that haven’t come along quite yet, but the desire and determination to compete is there and you have to have those things.”
Winnacunnet enters Friday’s home game against Manchester Central as one of just two winless teams in the 22-team Division I landscape.
The combined record of Winnacunnet’s first seven opponents is 37-8, meaning the Warriors have played some of the top teams in the state. Central is 4-1 on the season.
“Unfortunately, the beginning of this season has been loaded with tough teams,” Turcotte said.
Five of Winnacunnet’s seven losses have been my more than 25 points, including a 55-point loss to Bishop Guertin, a team many predict as the favorite to cut down the nets at Southern New Hampshire University in March.
Winnacunnet suffered its seventh loss of the season on Tuesday, falling to Pinkerton Academy, 62-28.
Junior Lauren Ruffin’s conventional 3-point play midway through the first quarter gave Winnacunnet its first, and only, lead of the game, 5-4.
“We’ve been winning in most of our games so far this year,” Turcotte said. “Against (Guertin) we were winning 2-0 for a little while. In most of the games we did have the one moment where we were the winning team; it was early on but we were winning for a little bit and those little bits will start adding up and a win on the record will be a great confidence boost for us.”
Turcotte and the Warriors have circled Wednesday, Jan. 30, at Trinity as the season’s biggest chance for a win.
“We know we can get them, we can” Turcotte said. “They are rebuilding and young; and teams are beating them worse than they are beating us. I am pretty sure that's a win right before Exeter.”
Trinity beat Keene on Wednesday 47-39 for its first win of the season and is now 1-6 on the season. Dover, the other winless team in Division I at 0-5, hosts Winnacunnet on Friday, Jan. 25.
Pinkerton sophomore Allison Ingalls’ 3-pointer gave the Astros their biggest lead of the night, 56-20, and sent the game into running time (35-point lead or more) with 6:25 left.
“We see a game like today when the score differential is just so wide but the girls are still diving on the floor,” Turcotte said. “We have a much different opponent this year than playing these other teams, we have the opponent of disbelief, the opponent of fear, frustration and anger. We have this other team we are playing and it’s against our own demons, that is the biggest opponent we will see this year. Game after game, if we can start defeating those opponents, than by the end of the season we will be that much better. It may not be that we have a winning season but we are going to be set up so down the road and we’ll be able to compete again.”
Ruffin led Winnacunnet with nine points, while juniors Ashley Gallant and Bryn Stokel had eight and six, respectively.
Winnacunnet had just three field goals in second half, one each by Ruffin, Stokel and senior Michaela Linnehan.
“We have made our own definition of winning,” Turcotte said. “Winning tonight meant we played to the last buzzer, winning tonight meant we improved parts of our offense, it meant that we could walk off the floor feeling like it was a competition. Nobody in the stands could tell unless they looked at the score clock that it wasn’t a close game. At the end of the game if we feel we battled than that was a win for us. We are taking the focus off the win record and we’re putting it on what this year’s goal is, and that goal is building, building on the court, building our skills, building with our belief systems and our mindset. This year is a year of resilience.”