A Zeal for Denial

Jan. 19-25, 2006
A Zeal for Denial
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
CBA Girls Basketball Player Caitlin Carrick has made a Career out of Keeping the Opponent at Bay

CBA girls basketball player Caitlin Carrick has made a career out of keeping the opponent at bay. There are nights when Caitlin Carrick might lead the Christian Brothers Academy varsity girls basketball in scoring but those aren’t necessarily the nights when she shines.

For the Brothers, defense is more than a point of pride; it’s their lifeblood, it’s their vitality. CBA coach John Niland sees an organic connection between defense and offense on the basketball court. With a distinct lack of size but considerable depth in pace and athleticism, CBA heavily stresses fullcourt press and converting turnovers into points. Carrick holds the key to igniting the Brothers’ offense.

“We generate our offense through our defense and Caitlin is the key,” Niland said. “She pressures, she forces people to make bad passes. She may not get the steal but she made the person make the bad pass and somebody else is picking it off and getting the steal and getting the lay-up, but she’s the only one that’s really trapping and cutting and really making the girl dribble and putting a lot of pressure on the ball.”

For Carrick, shutting down an opponent is the most rewarding athletic feat. “I always like to mark the strongest player on the other team and stay with her and try to keep her to as few points as I can,” the CBA senior said.

The desire to deny the opponent points emerges from soccer. Carrick is committed to taking to the field for Colgate next year after anchoring the CBA varsity girls soccer team’s defense. On the soccer field, Carrick plays the stopper position. Her tasks include marking the opposing team’s forwards and robbing foraying opponents of the ball.

“She’s very tenacious,” CBA soccer coach Mike McQuatters said, echoing Niland’s description of Carrick. “She’s a ball winner. That was her job for our team.” McQuatters elaborated that during the 2005 campaign, Carrick expanded her game to include more offense in terms of helping the Brothers sustain possession in the midfield. The CBA soccer team went 18-2-1 and spent most of the season at No. 1 in New York before finally losing to Burnt Hills in the state tournament.

The skills she uses as a central defender and the mindset it takes to play that position translate to basketball with only a little difficulty according to Carrick. Despite some obvious differences between the two sports, the positioning and footwork demanded of a soccer defender complement defensive responsibilities on the basketball court. “It’s always kind of hard to switch over from soccer to basketball because you have to get the whole foul thing down, but I think it helps a lot with my footwork and everything….In soccer I try to read the ball and see where it’s going, and I’d say the same is true in basketball. So they both go hand in hand and help each other out,” Carrick said.

Moreover, the conditioning necessary for high school soccer also enables Carrick to sustain CBA’s intense, fullcourt game once winter and basketball season roll around. An ankle injury limited her playing time early in the season, although she still played a considerable number of minutes before CBA took a lead in any given game. “When we need her on the court, she’s there. She’s probably the only person I know that can play the whole time without wavering at all,” Niland said.

Both McQuatters and Niland were eager to stress Carrick’s leadership on the field and court. While she’s not necessarily boisterous among her teammates, Carrick’s grit and persistence are infectious. “Caitlin leads by example and everyone follows her because of how hard she works and how badly she wants to win,” McQuatters said. “[She’s]….Fearless on defense, the heart and soul of the team. She has senior leadership and when things are going in the can she always makes the play to settle things down,” Niland said. “She never gives in. She’s heart and soul and that’s what playing basketball is all about. She doesn’t care about points; she just cares about winning by doing whatever it takes to win.”

Without a true center with any significant basketball experience, CBA relies on other hustle and positioning under the boards. Much of the time, that responsibility falls on Carrick, who is listed at 5-foot-5. Her diminutive stature, however, doesn’t impede Carrick from getting defensive boards in CBA’s 1-3-1 halfcourt defense. Niland said that her hustle and gutty play enable Carrick to snare rebounds away even from taller players.

“She’s tenacious going after the ball, she’ll go through a wall. Obviously she’s limited with what she can do size-wise but….That ball reads Caitlin Carrick on it and that’s her ball. There’s a lot of pride there,” Niland said. The 1-3-1 requires a player to guard the baseline as well as the lane and sometimes extend to defend the perimeter. Carrick’s basketball acumen and savvy not only make her an important presence in the halfcourt defense, but also help her lead the team.

“We play the 1-3-1 and you need a great athlete to guard the baseline and she’s the best athlete so she can go back and forth a lot easier than most kids,” Niland said. “Plus, she’s a senior and she knows how to do it. She understands that role a lot better where a lot of kids who haven’t played there would be running back and forth and getting tired. She knows how to do it. It’s important. She knows who’s supposed to guard and who’s not. She’s just a coach at that end of it.”

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