BY JEFF FALK
We all strive to achieve. Success plays an integral role in our psyches and self-esteem.
But all too often in our society, one’s success comes at another’s expense. Ultimately, our world would be a much better place if we could identify and foster more ‘win-win’ situations.
The tale of Annabelle Copeland and the Palmyra girls’ basketball team is just such a win-win situation. It is a unique story that just must be told.
During the off season, Copeland, a stalwart in the Palmyra girls’ basketball program, transferred to Lancaster Country Day, a private, college-preparatory school and the newest member of the Lancaster-Lebanon League. Last week, both Copeland’s new team and old team captured District Three championships.
On Thursday, February 28th, at Hershey’s Giant Center, Copeland and her Lancaster Country Day teammates defeated Greenwood 35-30 for the District Three Class A title. Then two days later, at Reading’s Santander Arena, the Cougars beat Gettysburg 31-23 to claim the District Three Class AAAAA championship.
Few – if any – similar scenarios have ever played out in such a fashion in Lebanon County sports.
“It’s great that both teams were able to work through some adversity and walk away with district championships,” said Copeland, a junior. “I followed along with scores and stuff online, and would talk to my old teammates and friends about their games, so I was pretty much in the loop.
“I think that their regular season record doesn’t reflect the talent and skill that they possess as a team,” continued Copeland. “They were definitely able to step up and play their best basketball during the district tournament, though.”
For years, the Copeland name has been linked to Palmyra High School and basketball success. At one point, it seemed that Annabelle was poised to carried on that tradition.
During her initial two seasons as a Cougar, Copeland saw extensive varsity time, and utilizing her size, overall skills and head for the game, she was a key contributor to Palmyra’s on-court success. But her depature to LCD opened up opportunities for younger, up-and-coming Palmyra players – opportunities that were ultimately siezed.
“Palmyra has a very strong basketball culture and several committed players,” said Copeland, “and they have the skill and talent to win championships. I have played with many of them since fifth grade. I have made several lasting friendships through Palmyra basketball, at every level.”
With Copeland in the fold, Lancaster Country Day has compiled a 19-5 overall mark and consequentially has earned a berth in the PIAA Class A postseason. Copeland has averaged just under 15 points per game, a mark that’s second on the team, and she is LCD’s leading three-point shooter.
“I think to win districts, which was certainly a goal in the back of everyone’s heads, we just needed to buy in,” said Copeland, who also competed in the highly successful field hockey program at Palmyra. “Once that became a possibility, I think everyone began to invest in practice and games more, and that made all the difference.
“From the beginning of the season, I knew we had the talent to at least make the finals,” added Copeland, “After Kaela’s (Stankiewicz, the team’s third leading scorer) injury, and finding out that some people wouldn’t make the district title game, I think I doubted our ability to win.”
After being in one place so long, Copeland’s adjustment to her new surroundings was predictably difficult. But as she became more comfortable at Lancaster Country Day, she also became more productive.
“There was definitely an adjustment period,” said Copeland. “But I think my teammates and coaches made it pretty easy. I really enjoy this year’s team, so the transition was not as hard as it could have been.
“As the season went on, I think everyone really started to buy in, as we saw what we were capable of doing,” Copeland continued. “Everyone really had to step up after Kaela tore her ACL, and we were all able to adjust our roles a little bit and win some games that we could have lost, if we reacted differently.”
Lancaster Country Day thought so much of Copeland’s talents and abilities that it made her one of the team captains this season. It was a leadership quality that Copeland had been developing over the past two seasons in Palmyra.
“I’m a captain on our team, so I definitely need to be a leader on and off the court,” said Copeland. “I think my main role is to score and just try to play my best all-around game. I had my inconsistencies, but I am happy with my season. I adjusted well to my new team and schedule, and that’s really what mattered.
“I thought our season went really well- our handful of losses were hard-fought and to teams that had more talent than us,” Copeland continued. “I’m proud of what our team was able to accomplish, especially without our starting point guard.”
The reasons for Copeland’s departure from Palmyra to Lancaster Country Day are known only by the parties directly involved. But the parrallel championships have rendered them irrelevant – water under the proverbial bridge.
“The academics challenges I face at LCDS are very rewarding, and I get so many more educational opportunities than I did at Palmyra,” said Copeland. “That being said, it was extremely difficult to leave behind my field hockey and basketball teams because of the close relationships I built through the years. Sometimes I really miss the sports at Palmyra, but I have become more and more happy with my life at LCDS, and the recent basketball success has been special.”