NEW MANCHESTER - It seems there has been a girl named Ecklebery in the Oak Glen girls' basketball team's lineup for a long, long time. And whichever Ecklebery it was, she was a very good player and a leader.
For example, the last four years the name was Payden Ecklebery and she was good enough to earn a scholarship to play at Fairmont State University.
Along with Ecklebery, Oak Glen coach Scott Wiley said goodbye to Amy Webster, Hayley McLaughlin and Natalie Farnsworth when graduation day rolled around last May.
In addition, another starter, Alex Burch, who also excelled on the Golden Bears track team, decided not play basketball her senior year.
Those five players were key to the Golden Bears going 18-8 and reaching the regional level for the second year in a row.
Oak Glen, however, has five letter winners returning, led by the second-leading scorer a year ago, Vanessa Hissam. The list includes Casey Patterson, the only senior on the squad, Tori Feicht and Karley Wiley, all juniors, and sophomore Jessica Stivason. Patterson and Hissam are returning starters.
"I'm excited about those five letter winners," said Wiley, who is in his third year at the helm.
Rounding out the varsity squad are Kaitlyn Herstine, Bria Evans, both sophomores and freshmen Logan Andrews and Alex Arnott.
Eckleberry has been the Oak Glen point guard the past four years and had control of the basketball the majority of the time.
"While Feicht is expected to lead us running the offense this year, we could have five point guards," Wiley explained. "A lot of times this year whoever gets the rebound will just go ahead and bring the ball down the floor.
"One of our strengths is our size. We have some tall girls that are quick and all of them can handle the ball. We should be able to run."
Wiley is concerned about bench strength this year.
"None of our bench players has any varsity experience," he continued. "We will need our bench to step in and help because I want to go nine deep so we can run at every opportunity and be able to give the girls that get tired a blow as much as we can."