Even with new lineup, Cape hoping for same success

Junior Mehkia Applewhite was an honorable mention All-State selection for Cape Henlopen last winter. Delaware State News file photos

LEWES — Pat Woods hasn’t forgotten about last year’s seniors.

Indeed, with the coronavirus pandemic keeping college kids home, the Cape Henlopen High girls’ basketball coach still sees them regularly.

But, while those seniors were at the heart of a successful era for the Vikings, Woods also knows Cape doesn’t want to get caught focusing on the past.

“We have the same exact goals,” he said. “I’m not trying to downplay losing Dania (Cannon), losing Abby (Hearn) and losing Carlin (Quinn). They’re fantastic. We’re certainly going to miss them.

“But we also don’t feel like there’s going to be a letdown.”

The Vikings, who are slated to open their 14-game season next Tuesday at Sussex Tech, had a crushing finish to last season, of course.

They had reached the DIAA state semifinals, where they were supposed to face state powerhouse Sanford. The pandemic exploded that week, though, and the final two rounds of the tourney were eventually called off.

Clearly, it wasn’t an easy situation to move past at the time.

“It was pretty tough there for a couple weeks,” said Woods. “I constantly remind the girls, let’s just be thankful for any time we’re on the court. You never know when it’s going to end.

Morgan Mahoney, a junior, is in her third season as a starter for the Vikings, who reached the state semifinals last year.

“We say that as coaches — this could be our last time,” he added. “Well, they lived it out. We didn’t know that Tatnall (in the state quarterfinals) was going to be our last game.”

After going a combined 38-8 over the last two seasons with four state tourney victories and a Henlopen Conference title, Woods doesn’t think this year’s Vikings have to take a big step back.

Cape Henlopen still has junior third-year starter Mehkia Applewhite, who was an honorable mention All-Stater last winter. Woods thinks she could be one of the best players in the state this season.

Another junior, 6-foot Morgan Mahoney, has also started the last two seasons while veteran Elizabeth Rishko is a good enough athlete to earn a lacrosse scholarship to Virginia Tech.

The Vikings also picked up an interesting transfer in Julia Saleur, a 5-foot-11 guard whose family moved here from France. Woods said Saleur played on a fairly high-level travel team in her former country.

“She’s high IQ,” he said.

Cape Henlopen has just one senior in Destiny Kusen with seven juniors on its 11-player varsity roster.

Junior Ella Rishko is another veteran player for the Vikings, who have only one senior on this year’s roster.

On the court, Woods really likes how unselfish this team is.

“They share the ball so well,” he said. “The ball just hops all over the court.”

Woods also thinks the Vikings’ speed will be an advantage on many nights. He said they’ll play more up-tempo than they have in the past.

“We can just fly all over the court,” he said. “Every single girl can get up and down (the court) like a typical guard would. It’s more or less like, get it and go. … Whoever gets it is the point guard, go. Push the ball.

“They can all handle it. I know everybody says this, but it’s very much ‘positionless.’ We’ve got a couple girls that are locked into certain actions. But it’s really nice seeing how comfortable they are with one another. They’re just a great group of girls and understand what we’re doing.”

A year ago, the Vikings’ first three losses were all to out-of-state teams before Cape fell to Woodbridge in the Henlopen championship game. They bounced back, though, to beat Wilmington Charter by 21 and Tatnall by 35 in the state tournament.

This year, Cape Henlopen is scheduled to face only Henlopen North schools in the regular season. The Vikings start the year with a 17-game winning streak against North teams.

“Today is practice number 23 so we feel completely ready to play right now,” said Woods. “Obviously 14 (games) is better than zero. That was a question mark for a long time.

“They’re excited to play. We’re going to make the best out of whatever situation we’re put in.”