The scars on Ariana Vanderhoop’s left knee are constant reminders of the unfortunate circumstance she suffered after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament not once, but twice.
“It just reminds me if I wasn’t built for this, I would’ve stopped,” she said.
The success of the Cathedral girls’ basketball team this season weighs heavily on the 5-foot-9-inch senior guard. After enduring ACL tears in two of her first three years of high school, Vanderhooop is finally healthy and ready for a full season for the first time in her career.
The No. 4 Panthers (2-1) will be relying upon Vanderhoop to carry a team lacking significant depth after coach Clinton Lassiter lost three starters from last year’s Division 4 state championship squad, most notably guards Dejah Jenkins, now at Central Connecticut State, and Amani Boston, now at Southern Connecticut State.
But Vanderhoop returns with Mackenzie Daleba, a three-time Globe All-Scholastic, to form a formidable duo for the Panthers.
“It’s been the talk of the summer for me and her, making sure she’s healthy and back in shape, not to rush,” said Daleba, who along with Vanderhoop has fielded several Division 1 college offers.
Beyond Daleba and Vanderhoop, senior guard Kiara Ainsley and sophomore guards Ciana Gibson and Tayla Barros are varsity players being counted upon to contribute significant minutes.
“This year is going to be so weird,” Lassiter said. “I don’t know what to think about it.”
When she was healthy, Vanderhoop showed flashes of brilliance as a sophomore, including a 16-point, 10-rebound performance in a win that clinched the Catholic Central League title.
“She just has intangibles that are unteachable, and you build off that,” Lassiter said. “She just sees things that others girls at this level don’t really see.”
Vanderhoop, who has played less than 10 games in her high school career, suffered her first ACL tear during the second game of her freshman season. Initially thought to have a sprain, Vanderhoop was later diagnosed with a tear. “It was horrible,” she said.
She returned during her junior year, pushed hard during her recovery, and re-aggravated it in a pickup game after the season.
“She was trying to make up for the time she missed,” Lassiter said.
Cleared for basketball activities this summer, Vanderhoop eschewed the AAU circuit, but college recruiters still managed to evaluate her at open gyms during the fall, peaking the interest of several schools.
“Some coaches just lost complete interest in me, literally because of my injuries,” she said. “A lot of coaches were afraid to recruit me.”
After enduring two arduous ACL recoveries, which included strict stretching and icing regimens, Vanderhoop said she never lost out on the hope of playing basketball again.
“Though I wasn’t playing a lot, I was never left out,” said the soft-spoken Vanderhoop, who remained engaged in games even though she was relegated to a sideline spectator. “I wasn’t really down on the sidelines. I never thought about it.”
Daleba, who averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds during last season’s D4 title run, has shouldered the load the last three seasons. Lassiter knows it will not come as any surprise to the opposition. “Everyone’s going to lock in on [her], that’s the norm,” he said.
But Daleba knew having a healthy Vanderhoop at her side will improve the Panthers’ chances of repeating. “She’s the factor that could win us a ‘ship,” Daleba said.
■ Some other movement . . . Belmont’s Maiya Bergdorf transferred to St. Mary’s for her junior year. Bridgewater-Raynham junior Taliah Tah transferred from Archbishop Williams. Cambridge Rindge & Latin senior Ella Simonsen is back after missing last year with a torn ACL.
■ The out-of-MIAA transfers were headlined by the move of reigning Northeast Conference MVP and Globe All-Scholastic Oluchi Okananwa, who averaged 16 points, 7.5 steals and 6 rebounds at Peabody, to New Hampton School.
■ Alyssa Moreland, who dominated as a freshman at Beverly, missed last season due to injury and is now at Tilton. After two years at Melrose, Sam Dewey is at Brooks, as is Haverhill’s Kendall Eddy. Westford’s Jen Martin and Masconomet’s Lucy Palmer went to Bradford Christian Academy.
“It’s a case-by-case situation for each kid, but I think there is a lot of social pressure around that choice from peers and coaches,” Beverly coach Seth Stanial said. “It’s a tough decision for teenagers to make.”
■ Unfortunate injuries have mounted as well. Masconomet’s Morgan Bovardi tore her ACL in soccer. She averaged 13.4 points per game last year as a sophomore. Reigning Tri-Valley League Large MVP and Westwood junior Elizabeth Gill, Lily Adams (Braintree) and Kayla Madden (Ashland) are also out with torn ACLs.
“We’re obviously devastated for [Gill] and every other player that has to go through it,” said Westwood coach Katherine Clifford. “It’s obviously something that breaks your heart and it’s such a long and grueling recovery process.”
Games to watch
Friday, Fenway at Latin Academy, 6:00 p.m. — A rematch of last year’s City League title pits the host Dragons (1-1) against the Panthers (1-0).
Friday, Braintree at Bridgewater-Raynham, 6:30 p.m. — Shay Bollin, Kenzie Matulonis and the No. 3 Trojans (1-0) play host to the reigning Division 1 State Champion and No. 12 Wamps (2-0).
Sunday, Concord Carlisle vs. Central Catholic, at Billerica 5:15 p.m. — As part of the MVC/DCL Challenge, the No. 3 Raiders will play their second game of the weekend against the No. 15 Patriots.
Sunday, Cambridge at Billerica, 7:00 p.m. — Also a MVC/DCL battle, the No. 13 Falcons (1-0) play the tournament hosts.
Monday, Andover vs. Westford Academy at Billerica, 7:00 p.m. — The No. 16 Warriors play a feisty Grey Ghost squad.
Greg Levinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.