A high degree of attrition within the girls basketball team at Hilton Head Preparatory School has led to the postponement of the varsity program, athletics director Rich Basirico said Tuesday.
The Dolphins, 0-3 this year, watched as a pair of season-ending injuries snowballed into the departure of what was ultimately the entire senior class. That left Prep and head coach Dan Sheehan with just four eighth graders and two freshmen, which then forced the team to shut down for at least the rest of this season.
"To try and play a competitive varsity schedule when the nucleus of the team is eighth graders, we didn't feel that it was in the best interest of the girls for safety reasons or in the best interest of our girls overall," Basirico said.
Prep saw its leader, Wake Forest signee Jill Brunori, go down in the preseason with a torn ACL. Fellow senior Grace Anderson was lost in the same scrimmage for five weeks with a knee problem, but her absence became magnified when eighth grader Forest Wiley broke her ankle during the Colleton Prep tournament.
Those injuries preceded the decision of a few seniors to depart for personal reasons, Basirico said, leaving the Dolphins with just a pair of seniors. That's when conversations then began about whether to field just a varsity or junior varsity program.
"There were a few that for personal decisions just decided not to continue playing," Basirico said. "It put our team in a situation where we just didn't feel, unfortunately, that we could field a varsity team and be competitive."
The two remaining seniors met with Basirico and Sheehan and decided it was for the benefit of the program that they forgo the remainder of their careers and have the youthful Dolphins continue their season at the JV level. SCISAA rules prohibit students from participating in JV competition upon the conclusion of their sophomore year.
"We had some very important meetings with some girls and a couple of our girls stepped up and said, 'Look, we know for the best interest of the program, if we stepped away from it that you could have a JV program and have some success for these young girls,' " Basirico recalled.
Basirico then contacted the upcoming schools on the Dolphins' schedules to inform their opponents of the cancellations. The support from Prep's SCISAA counterparts has been overwhelming, he said.
"The response has been terrific," he said. "The coaches and ADs in our league have been outstanding. I called every school and followed up with an email.
"I've been very appreciative of our league and our nonconference schools to be very supportive. They understand it's an unfortunate thing and it's not something we wanted to do."
Basirico couldn't speculate on the future of the program beyond this season. He said it is Prep's hope to field a varsity team next year, but added that the school isn't looking that far ahead just yet.
"We didn't think this was going to happen this year, so we're going to take it one year at a time," he said. " We want to put our athletes in the best situation for them that they can experience success, but more importantly, to grow as players and as a team. In the long run, this will be a positive experience."