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June 11, 2013

OHS girls juggled way to huge year

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The Daily Star

---- — A friend of mine who coached basketball at the Division II and III levels said during some recruiting visits, he’d bring three tennis balls with him.

When talking to a recruit and his parents, he wanted to stress that balancing school work with basketball and a hearty social life is nearly impossible.

This coach said most kids can’t juggle, so he’d hand the recruit the three balls and tell him to juggle. On most occasions, the coach said, the balls would end up at various corners of the living room in a matter of seconds.

The point was that doing three things and doing them all at a high level is difficult. You’re going to have a drop off in at least one area.

That brings me to the Oneonta High girls soccer, girls basketball and softball teams during the 2012-13 academic year.

I don’t know of any world-class jugglers by name, but I have to believe they’d have been impressed by the Yellowjackets’ performance over the past 10 months.

To review:

The soccer team went 18-3-1, won its second straight Southern Tier Athletic Conference title and advanced to the Class B state final, falling 3-1 in overtime to Greece Odyssey.

The basketball team went 20-2, won the STAC title, won its record sixth straight sectional title and advanced to the state semifinals, falling, 55-53, to an Irvington squad that went on to win its fourth straight Class B state championship.

The softball team went 17-3 and handed eventual Class B state champion Windsor one of its two losses.

Now for some trivia, Jeopardy-style.

Answer: She was the lone girl to appear on OHS’ varsity soccer, basketball and softball teams in the 2012-13 school year (cue the music).

Question: Who is Minnie Webster?

Her highlight this season came in the STAC basketball final when she hit a three-pointer from the left wing with 4.1 seconds left in overtime to give OHS a 57-56 victory over Horseheads at Binghamton University’s Events Center.

Webster’s also proof how difficult it is to excel in three sports, especially with the talent Oneonta High possessed on those rosters. Webster’s teams went 55-8-1 during her senior year.

As for those who played on two of the aforementioned teams, you have Mariah Ruff (soccer and basketball); Dani Nicosia (soccer and basketball); Shelby Cleaveland (soccer and softball); Cami Cleaveland (soccer and softball); Amy Hait (soccer and softball); Brieanna Baker (soccer and softball); Emmalee Sloman (soccer and softball); Meg Burns (soccer and basketball); Miranda Kreger (soccer and softball); Ceili Getman (basketball and softball); Hayley Dower (basketball and softball); Maria DiMartin (basketball and softball); and Erin Mushtare (basketball and softball).

Before being inundated with emails – something that’s never happened to me – I’m well aware OHS girls stood out in other sports such as volleyball and the recently completed track season this school year. But I’ve decided to focus on soccer, basketball and softball, as they were a notch above.

As sterling as OHS’ three-sport resume is, it was close to being even better.

The soccer team held a one-goal lead in the state final with less than nine minutes left.

The basketball team was a pair of barely missed layups away in the last three seconds from forcing overtime against an Irvington squad that won the state final by 38 points.

The softball team earned a 2-0 victory over Windsor, which also beat the Yellowjackets by scores of 1-0 and 4-2. A fourth meeting seemed a sure thing, but top-seeded OHS fell, 5-3, to Waverly in a sectional semifinal.

Still, I’m fairly certain if you asked Windsor’s players to name the top three Class B teams they played this season that Oneonta would appear on a lot of those lists – possibly at the top of some of them.

It truly was an amazing year, perhaps even unprecedented at OHS. Though no state championship banners will hang in Drago Gymnasium, the full body of work the Yellowjackets’ girls put together in 2012-13 just might have been the best in school history.

For a Class B school to have the depth of talent to be among the state’s best in three sports is beyond impressive.

I’m glad I witnessed some of it.

Rob Centorani covers high school sports for The Daily Star. Email him at rcentorani@thedailystar.com.