PARK RIDGE — The Park Ridge injury list reads like a tally of nominations for the All-BCSL Olympic Division girls basketball team.
Junior guard Michelle Turner, coming off a tremendous soccer season, won’t return until the State tournament at the earliest after hurting her knee on opening night. Junior forward Nicole Kalafut is out for the season with a hand injury.
And, in Thursday’s win over Dwight-Englewood, senior guard Jayme Mizzoni suffered a leg injury driving to the basket. Despite Mizzoni’s insistence that she’s playing in Sunday’s North Jersey Breast Cancer Challenge, she might be out a while.
Want more? Even assistant coach Chris Franzese is sporting a cast these days after breaking his hand playing flag football.
That’s not an injury bug. It’s an infestation.
And still the Owls, ranked No. 23 in the North Jersey Top 25, are somehow thriving. The depth of this Group 1 program has taken a severe hit, but Park Ridge is 5-2 after Friday’s 43-11 win over Leonia.
"I was just trying to be honest when I told the girls in the locker room that this is more frustrating to me than you can imagine," said coach Mike Weaver. "Every day, it’s something. Everyday, there is some kind of brick wall or roadblock.
"It bothers me. It frustrates me. But like I told the girls, when you walk out the locker room door, it’s over. You have to think positive."
And so, before Friday’s game, Weaver didn’t spend any time going over plays or detailing strategy. He simply wrote, ‘How are you going to respond?’ on the board, and read his players the story in Friday’s Record about how Ramapo is dealing with the loss of Sarah Halejian, the best player in North Jersey, for three weeks.
"We have to face this as a team," Mizzoni said. "You do wonder, ‘What’s going to happen next?’ We all go through it, but we are all trying to stay positive."
The Owls, who still have serious designs on both the Olympic title and a North 1, Group 1 crown, have done a nice job rallying around each other. They played their best defense of the season to beat a strong Emerson team, 53- 29, Tuesday in a game that speaks volumes about what this team can still accomplish.
"We want to make sure we prove ourselves," said senior guard Lauren Lucanie.
Lucanie has stepped up in an expanded role. So has sophomore forward Taylor Ross, who played about 10 minutes of varsity last season but has played close to 32 minutes in each of the last four games.
"We have to make sure we work with one another," said junior forward Kelsey Wimmershoff. "We have to go into each game with the same mentality like we’re playing Cresskill or New Milford."
The bottom line is that the Owls still believe in themselves, which is half the battle. Their depth has been stretched to its very limit, but they are trying to compensate with a back-to-basics approach centered around smart defense.
"I keep telling them that by the end of the season, we are going to reach the point again where teams aren’t going to want to come into this gym," Weaver said.