Montgomery County girls basketball preview -- Gazette.Net


Bethesda-Chevy Chase Barons

Coach: Jennifer Rushin, 1st year

Last season's record: 2-21

Returning starters: Four

Last state tournament appearance: None

As a former assistant coach at Quince Orchard, first-year Barons coach Jennifer Rushin is well aware of her new team's struggles.

But that was part of the appeal.

“My goal is to create a program that's going to be one to talk about, this year and in years to come,” Rushin said. “Everything we're doing this year is different. There is a very exciting atmosphere when you walk into the gym, a lot of noise, a lot of talking and communicating with each other.”

Strong defense is the foundation of Rushin's system, she added. And the Barons team speed plays into that.

B-CC is scrappy and will show teams a variety of defensive formations.

Four returning starters will help ease the transition period to a new coach and system.

— Jennifer Beekman

Montgomery Blair Blazers

Coach: Erin Conley, 6th year (66-49)

Last season's record: 20-5

Returning starters: None

Last state tournament appearance: 1997

Over the course of four years, Blair's class of 2012 took the program from moribund to 20-game winners and the regional semifinals. Now that class, seven players (including All-Gazette regular Johanna Lopez) strong, is gone. But the program has come too far to lower its sights by much. “We'll spend a lot of time on defensive principles, offensive strategies, and skill building, working to develop impact players able to contribute to another winning season,” Conley said. The team is unfamiliar, but not young — boasting four seniors and four juniors — and junior point guard Erica Adarkwa returns for her third varsity season with a much more significant role to play.

— John Y. Wehmueller

James H. Blake Bengals

Coach: Patricia Gilmore, 7th year (125-45)

Last season's record: 4-19

Returning starters: Three

Last state tournament appearance: 2009

Junior point guard Asha Henley, 5-foot-11 senior forward Danielle Snowden and senior shooting guard Kenise Carroll return as starters from a team that lost in the first round of the playoffs to Springbrook, 48-44. It was a rare down year for Blake, which went 17-6, 22-4, 18-9, 19-6 and 14-9 the previous five years, including a state final appearance in 2007, a state semifinal appearance in 2008 and another state final appearance in 2009. Sophomore guard Citiana Negatu transferred from Montrose Christian, and 6-foot-3 freshman center Sofilia Ngwafang should provide a boost. Senior guard Lindsey Comer and junior forward Brigit Ngaleau also return to the varsity team after coming off the bench last season.

— Dan Feldman

Bullis Bulldogs

Coach: Rod Hairston, 1st year

Last year's record: 20-7

Returning starter: 1

Last ISL AA title: 2006

New coach Rod Hairston, who did not return multiple requests from The Gazette seeking comment for this preview, brings a successful resume to the Bulldogs, who won 20 games and placed second to Georgetown Visitation in the Independent School League AA Division regular season standings.

Hairston coached at Eleanor Roosevelt from 1999-2009 where he won five consecutive 4A state crowns from 2005-2009. He also captured the regular season title in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference in his one year with Bishop McNamara.

This past season, Hairston served as an assistant under Henry A. Wise coach Walter Clark. The Pumas reached the 4A state final last winter before falling to back-to-back champion Gaithersburg.

Lynee Belton, a 6-foot-3 junior center, is considered a four-star recruit by ESPNHS. She averaged 16 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and two assists a game last year.— James Peters

Winston Churchill Bulldogs

Coach: Katelyn McMahon, 4th year

Last season's record: 19-5

Returning starters: Two

Last state tournament appearance: 2003

There are many positives to having a 6-foot-1 Division I recruit manning the post. One drawback, however, can be becoming too reliant on one person for point production.

Rather than dwell on the loss of three-year starter Sarafina Arthur-Williams, now in her freshman season at the University of Carolina, Greensboro, Churchill coach Katelyn McMahon said the Bulldogs' balance could be it's biggest strength this winter.

Good overall team speed will propel defending Montgomery 4A South Division co-champion Churchill's up=-tempo game and high pressure defense.

Bulldogs also have several scoring threats, including guards Shira Racoosin and Japria Karim-Duvall. Churchill won't be too small, either, with 6-4 senior Alaine Thronson under the basket.

“We always look to top what we did the year before. We know it's going to be a competitive division, but that's good because we like competitive games,” McMahon said.

— Jennifer Beekman

Clarksburg Coyotes

Coach: Sissy Natoli, 7th year (61-78)

Last season's record: 8-15

Returning starters: Two

Last state tournament appearance: None

For six years now, every time Coyotes start to find their level, the level changes. They went from a brand new Class 2A school, to a stacked 3A division, and finally to the 4A West division and region a year ago. Now settling in for a second season and the foreseeable future, Clarksburg is looking to gain some traction, beginning with a second winning season in seven tries. “We look to be more competitive and finish over .500,” Natoli said. “I can't wait to get started.” The Coyotes boast eight returnees, an up-tempo style, and even length in juniors Laurie Kostecka (5-foot-11) and Andie DeCelis (6-foot). They remain young, however; Tiara Hall is the only senior expected to start night in, night out.

— John Y. Wehmueller

Damascus Swarmin' Hornets

Coach: Steve Pisarski, 15th year

Last season's record: 20-4

Returning starters: Five.

Last state tournament appearance: None

The Swarmin' Hornets have a score to settle, well, make that two scores. Consecutive losses to Frederick in the Class 3A West Region finals have Pisarski's bunch chomping at the bit. Junior G/F Kelli Prange returns after averaging 17 points and eight rebounds per game. The 6-foot-4 forward has attracted the attention of a plethora of Division I schools. “Our lineup is shaky as far as a definite starting lineup,” said Pisarski. “We're working on our rotation now, but we'll have plenty of players who will get their fair share of minutes. I feel like it's a good problem to have.” Sam Day should make a difference for Damascus as well, after missing last season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

— John Harris III

Albert Einstein Titans

Coach: Julian Barron, 1st year

Last season's record: 5-18

Returning starters: One

Last state tournament appearance: 1989

Senior power forward Eyvonnka Rizkallah, the team's leading rebounder last season, is the only returning starter. After primarily focusing on defense and rebounding last year, she'll be asked to score a bit more. But the ball will primarily go through junior point guard Abbey Buckingham, who started on Barron's junior varsity team last season. Buckingham has a quality mid-range jump shot, but the next step is penetrating more. That would open the offense for role players like senior small forward Daiana Cadlett and senior shooting guard Sindy Chavez, the only other two varsity returners. Barron, who served as JV coach only one year, plans use a motion offense and a zone defense with plenty of pressing and trapping to compensate for the team's lack of size.

— Dan Feldman

Gaithersburg Trojans

Coach: Adrian McDaniel, 6th year (109-19)

Last season's record: 27-0

Returning starters: Two

Last state tournament appearance: 2012

For the record, Gaithersburg has won 52 straight games. The Trojans' most recent loss came in the state championship game — in March 2010. Two more first-team All-Gazette honorees (Colleen Marshall and Jackie Jackson) have now graduated, leaving the two-time defending 4A champions' cupboard ... stocked for another run to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County?

“We're expecting the same kind of deal,” McDaniel said. “We'll be younger as far as basketball IQ, but we'll still be OK.” The Trojans took seven sophomores to UMBC last year, and in Deja Rollins they have a senior with two state championships under her belt. On paper, a small step backward seems likely, but then again, paper said that last year, too.

— John Y. WehmuellerOur Lady of Good Counsel

Coach: Tom Splaine, 12th year

Last year's record: 30-5

Returning starters: Five

Last WCAC title: 2012

The Falcons, with the return of nine players, including Division I college signees Amanda Fioravanti (Virginia) and Lindsey Spann (Penn State), look poised to challenge for back-to-back Washington Catholic Athletic Conference titles.

Spann (15 ppg, 6.1 apg) returns to her point guard spot; Fioravanti (17.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg) returns to the low post. They are rejoined by talented guards Sara Woods, and Stacey Koutris, who earned All-WCAC third team and honorable mention recognition, respectively, a year ago. Good Counsel also welcomes back Nicole Enabosi, a talented post player who missed most of last season with injury.

The Falcons will need all of those players to endure a tough December schedule that includes the Beast of the East Tournament and the National Title IX Holiday Invitational.

— James PetersHolton-Arms School Panthers

Coach: Julia Treadwell, 3rd year

Last year's record: 7-12

Returning starters: Four

Last ISL title: None

After looking at the talent returning — including four starters — plus the addition of some capable newcomers, third-year coach Julia Treadwell decided to make a change in her team's style of play for the 2012-13 season.

“I think the big change is that we will play more up tempo and defensively maybe getting teams in pressure situations,” said Treadwell, who returns forwards Izzy Jenkins (5-foot-10) and Maddie Merkle (5-11), point guard Cameron Kelso (5-6) and guard Sydney Chapman (5-5). “We want to run the ball a little bit more. I think our inside players have some quickness and can run the floor and I think we're a little guard laden so we'll use that to our advantage.”

Olivia Lee and Gaites Layton are two top newcomers.

— James PetersConnelly School of the Holy Child Tigers

Coach: Jamie Ready, 4th year (41-31)

Last season's record: 16-8

Returning starters: Four

Last ISL tournament appearance: 2012 With four starters returning to her squad, coach Jamie Ready thinks the Tigers will be in the mix for a league title. “We're a very small team, but we're very quick and athletic,” she said. “We're going to be a run, run, run team. But i feel strongly that we have a chance to compete for a top spot in the league. National Cathedral and Episcopal, they'll be the top teams. But it'll be a very competitive league. I hope with my experience coming back that'll be an advantage for us.”

Eileen Williams, Daniela Falcone, Talley Britt and Colby Evans all return as starters.

— Colin Stevens

Academy of the Holy Cross Tartans

Coach: Eddie Simpson, 3rd year (50-14)

Last year's record: 24-7

Returning starters: Three

Last WCAC title: 2007

Tartans coach Eddie Simpson believes that if “we can stay healthy and keep [6-foot-5 junior center] Rhamat [Alhassan] out of foul trouble, the sky's the limit for us” because “this is the best chemistry we've had since I've been here.” That's saying something considering Holy Cross has eclipsed the 20-win plateau the past two seasons.

Alhassan averaged around 10 points per game a year ago and she should be a major force inside the free throw lane on both ends of the court. Taylor McCarley (12 ppg last year) and Jillian Dunston, a pair of 5-11 guards, can create their own shot off the dribble and score from the perimeter.

Guards Janee Brown and Alex Lustig will also be key contributors for the Tartans.

— James PetersWalter Johnson Wildcats

Coach: Lindsey Zegowitz, 2nd year (18-4)

Last year's record: 18-4

Returning starters: Three

Last state tournament appearance: 1986

Last year's Montgomery 4A South Division co-champion run was the Wildcats' first winning campaign in six years. And they don't plan on taking any steps backwards.

There may be a division banner hanging in the Walter Johnson gymnasium but the Wildcats still feel like they need to prove last year's success was no fluke, returning center Kristen Larrick said.

The 6-foot-2 senior is fresh off leading Walter Johnson's girls volleyball team to its first state tournament appearance since 1992 and second-year girls basketball coach Lindsey Zegowitz said she hopes that experience will transfer to the court.

With three dynamic returning starters — Larrick, point guard Leemor Banai and shooting guard Melanie Ackerman — the Wildcats have picked up where they left off last winter, Zegowitz added.

They boast a fairly multifaceted offense and shouldn't have trouble putting points on the board.

— Jennifer Beekman

John F. Kennedy Cavaliers

Coach: Kevin Thompson, 6th year (58-57)

Last season's record: 12-12

Returning starters: Unknown

Last state tournament appearance: None

After a losing season in 2008-09, Thompson has guided Kennedy to at least .500 records the last three years. However, Kennedy lost Desha Nourn, who was named All-Gazette honorable mention last season. She's now playing at Montgomery College, where she's averaging 19.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game. Kennedy beat Clarksburg, 62-37, in the first round of last year's playoffs then lost to Walter Johnson, 43-33, in the 4A West quarterfinals. Kennedy also won one playoff game in 2011, but none in 2010 or 2009 — all three seasons in 3A. So, in its first 4A season, Kennedy won as many playoff games as its final three 3A years combined.

Col. Zadok Magruder Colonels

Coach: Erin Borsody, 5th year (16-77)

Last season's record: 3-20

Returning starters: Two

Last state tournament appearance: 1985

For all of Erin Borsody's coaching tenure at Col. Zadok Magruder, she has been trying to develop a consistently winning team, but victories have been few and far between with just 16 wins in four years.

This winter's team is young once again with no seniors, but it has a key core of returning players. Juniors Adjowa Pinkrah, a scoring threat in the lane, and Janel Brown, a perimeter player, are expected to be the “backbone” of the team, according to Borsody.

The Colonels, however, may have the most depth this year during Borsody's tenure as Hannah Barr, Lidia Castillo and Emily Fonatora are expected to play significant minutes.

“Overall, I think we will be a team to contend with,” Borsody said.

— Kent ZakourRichard Montgomery Rockets

Coach: Mark Yantsos, 1st year

Last season's record: 9-13

Returning starters: None

Last state tournament appearance: 1996

To put it bluntly, the Rockets are very raw when it comes to court experience. All of their starters have graduated, and only a handful of players with any varsity playing experience remain for their first-year coach.

“We basically have 10 girls on our entire team, and we are just hopeful that we can put something together,” said Mark Yantsos. “It's definitely going to be an uphill battle.”

Richard Montgomery will depend on senior leadership from forwards Caroline Leahy and Victoria Cobb. Sophomore point guard Tyra Sinclair gives the Rockets speed in the backcourt, and will be joined by classmate Allie Parrish. Junior forwards Brittany Brown, Courtney Smith and Caitlin Greene add to Richard Montgomery's depth.

— John Harris III

Northwest Jaguars

Coach: Todd Ostrom, 2nd year (20-5)

Last season's record: 20-5

Returning starters: Four

Last state tournament appearance: None

The Jaguars lost leading scorer Carla Batchelor to graduate, but return virtually every other player from last year's 4A West Region finalist team.

“We will definitely miss not having Carla,” coach Todd Ostrom said. “But we will be just fine. … We will have to find someone different to step up each game and it will be a much more collective team effort.”

Northwest will still push the ball up the court with its quick guards and press on defense, but the team's chemistry will be key, Ostrom said.

Senior forward Hillaevi Mensah, senior forward Jasmine Mutunga, junior guard Kendra Meredith, senior guard Taylor Simpson and junior guard Dominique Anderson are all expected to start. Senior forward Tiffany Lake should also be a key contributor.

— Kent Zakour

Northwood Gladiators

Coach: Frank Peterson, 1st year

Last season's record: 4-18

Returning starters: Two

Last state tournament appearance: None

Another year brings another reboot for a program that has seen its share of first-year coaches. Peterson arrives on the heels of a season as the interim head coach of the Montgomery College men's team and five years experiencing coaching girls at the AAU level. “I've only had them 2 weeks, and it's a building process,” Peterson said. “We're starting from scratch, but it will be cool to see them develop over the course of the season. We expect to be a dangerous team come playoff time.” Diamond Rankine, only a sophomore, will be the floor general for a very young team. Even one of the few seniors is a newcomer; High Point transfer Myia Adams will be a go-to player at power forward.

— John Y. WehmuellerPaint Branch Panthers

Coach: Rochelle Coleman, 2nd year (19-6)

Last season's record: 19-6

Returning starters: Three

Last state tournament appearance: 2009

Junior point guard Kiara Colston, junior shooting guard Jasmine White and senior small forward Erin French return as Paint Branch starters, but the team also has a fourth player who started last season. Sophomore Daisa Harris started at point guard for Einstein last season before transferring. She'll begin off the ball, but she and Colston will share point-guard duties. Last year, Paint Branch lacked height aside from 6-foot-4 Amaka Ezeani, who led the team in rebounding. This year, Paint Branch just lacks height, so rebounding will have to be a group effort. Coleman appears to have the program headed on the right path. Paint Branch went 7-17 the year before her arrival, but won two playoff games last season before falling to eventual-region-champion Poly.

— Dan FeldmanPoolesville Falcons

Coach: Fred Swick

Last season's record: 19-6

Returning starters: Three

Last state tournament appearance: None

With Lindsay Poss now playing at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, the Falcons are charged with adjusting their attack. This season, coach Fred Swick believes his team is more than capable of doing just that. “I feel like we've got a very balanced team this year,” Swick said. “I feel like any one of our five starters can score double-figures in any game. I've seen a lot of good things through our scrimmages and practices. We are a very good passing team, and the starting five really plays well together. If we can keep doing that and play solid defense, I think we can have another pretty nice season.”

Juniors Whitney Carmack and Rosie Barry should round out the Falcons starting rotation.

— John Harris III

Quince Orchard Cougars

Coach: Kenneth Buffum, 1st year

Last season's record: 5-18

Returning starters: Three

Last state tournament appearance: None

The Cougars will look to improve this winter with a number of key players returning. Point guard Morgan Turner and forwards Maddie Arata and Babette Sanmartin, a physical presence that gets to the basket, all return as starters.

Brittany Beckwith is also expected start at forward along with Seneca Valley transfer Audrey Rankin, who is the team's best shooter.

Buffum hopes his team will be able to run the floor to get easy points in transition, but will slow the pace and run half-court sets when needed.

“I have lofty expectations for this group of girls,” he said. “I really think we can play with any team in the county with the talent we have and will be disappointed if we don't win a few games in the state playoffs.”

— Kent ZakourRockville Rams

Coach: Kurtis Cross, 1st year

Last season's record: 6-16

Returning starters: Two

Last state tournament appearance: 1987

Kurtis Cross is Rockville's fifth coach in four years. The former Winston Churchill junior varsity coach knows going in that he will have an uphill climb to help bring stability to the program, but will go into the 2012-2013 full of optimism. “I look forward to introducing a new era of basketball to the Rockville High School community. We have a great group of seniors along with a deep class of juniors, highlighted by transfer student Alexis Nettles (St. John's),” said Cross. “We will also look for contributions from our incoming freshmen Paige Hailstock and Hazel Carmona.” Alexiana Bernard and Alexis Frager return for their senior seasons, and will be joined by juniors Elizabeth Barrett and Jazmine Williams, as well as sophomore Sophia Romano.

— John Harris III

Saint Andrew's Episcopal Lions

Coach: Andre Foreman, 1st year

Last season's record: 3-17

Returning starters: Three

Last ISL title: None

The Lions struggled mightily last year en route to 3-17 record and just one victory in the Independent School League's A Division. So, first-year coach Andrew Foreman was hired up from the junior varsity ranks in hopes of turning the program around.

Three starters return in guard Kristin Butler, guard/forward Hannah King and forward Christina Martini. Newcomer Jarena Harmon, who transferred from National Cathedral School, is expected to start at point guard.

Foreman expects to have balanced scoring and utilize all five players on the floor out of his motion offense sets. The Lions are an undersized team so they will rely on their quickness for success.

“My expectations for this season is to get better every game and starting a winning tradition for Lions' basketball,” Foreman said.

— Kent Zakour

Seneca Valley Screaming Eagles

Coach: Katie Caldwell, 1st year

Last season's record: 16-8

Returning starters: Four

Last state tournament appearance: 2011

Less than two years removed from a state championship, the Screaming Eagles find themselves with a new coach combined with a few familiar faces from last year's squad. Katie Caldwell thinks her team will be able to compete physically with a lot of the competition, but is looking to tighten up the finer points. “I think we'll be pretty exciting this year, we have some great athletes on the team and they have lots of potential,” Caldwell said. “I think our strengths will be our speed and defensive ability, but I think we need to continue to improve our shooting.” Junior guards Erin Gary and Juanita Craig will be counted upon to help provide stability, as well as sophomore guard Sabrina Brower.

— John Harris III

Sherwood Warriors

Coach: Kenneth Prather, 1st year

Last season's record: 11-13

Returning starters: Two

Last state tournament appearance: 1996

Longtime area high school and youth basketball coach Kenneth Prather takes over after coaching the junior varsity team to a 16-2 record last year.

The Warriors, who will feature many young players moving up from the junior varsity ranks and receiving several minutes of playing time, return just two players in forward Maddie McCarthy and starting point guard Madi Dune. Of the roster of 14, there are just three seniors with six juniors, four sophomores and one freshman.

Prather said he plans to implement a fast-paced style of play with “a lot of pressure on defense and fast tempo offense.”

“We are looking to be competitive this year and get ready for the playoffs,” Prather said. “We are truly building for the future.”

— Kent Zakour

Springbrook Blue Devils

Coach: Tonya Banks, 7th year (103-42)

Last season's record: 18-8

Returning starters: Two

Last state tournament appearance: 2006

Wing Jasmin Dancy, who signed early with Virginia Union University, led the team in rebounding last season. She and guard Lauren Moore return as starters from an unseeded squad that upset No. 2 seed Catonsville and No. 3 seed Perry Hall to reach the 4A North final. No Springbrook team has advanced further since 2006. Sophomore guard Paige Torry, senior wing Nolita Jervier and senior guard Fredlyne Pierre-Paul move into the starting lineup after playing extensively last year off the bench. Two All-Gazette honorable mentions, guard Capree Garner and forward Jessica Brooks, depart, and Banks said a group effort will have to pick up the scoring load, though Moore has the potential to take a large share of the responsibility.

— Dan Feldman

Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart Gators

Head coach: Mike Thiede, 2nd year (10-15)

Last year's record: 10-15

Returning starters: One

After being a major player in the Independent School League, the Gators took a step back a year ago, finishing tied for fifth with a 5-9 record. They will look to rebound this season under second-year coach Mike Thiede with a youthful squad that returns one starter in 5-foot-10 junior forward Laura Keehan.

“We graduated five seniors, four of which started,” Thiede said. “This year's team is young, athletic, and more balanced. We will look to press and change the tempo to utilize our strengths. With so many newcomers, it will take time to gel, but a top four finish in the league is not out of the question.”

Kaitlin Ballenger, a 6-foot guard, returns following a strong freshman season.

— James Peters

Watkins Mill Wolverines

Coach: Ivan Hicks, 6th year (56-57)

Last season's record: 13-10

Returning starters: Three

Last state tournament appearance: 1992

Over the past three seasons, the Wolverines have been one of Montgomery County's most quietly consistent programs. “Quiet” is not the goal for 2013. Most of last year's youthful regional semifinalists are back and looking to “make some noise this year,” Hicks said. Forward Dominique Walker, a sophomore, put up 31 points and 12 rebounds in the season-ending loss to Damascus. “We have [in Walker] one of the best players in Montgomery County, in my opinion,” Hicks said. “It will be very hard to stop her this year.” Classmate Danielle Durjan is another exciting second-year player, while Jewell Johnson, the only remaining holdover from the 2010-11 team, is expected to be Ms. Reliable. Bringing its trademark speed and aggression, Watkins Mill will be a tough out this year.

— John Y. WehmuellerWheaton Knights

Coach: Michelle Snape, 2nd year (0-21)

Last season's record: 0-21

Returning starters: Two

Last state tournament appearance: 1999

Second-year coach Michelle Snape will look to a trio of young players to lead the Knights to an improved campaign after finishing winless in the 2011-12 season.

Juniors Rakeb Teklu and Brittany Briffiths both return with starting experience from last season. Teklu, the point guard and a team captain, will provide a steady presence in the backcourt, while Briffiths can contribute from either of the forward spots. Freshman Chyna Smith has also impressed at early practices, and will be a key contributor to Wheaton's success this season.

“Just from the last couple seasons since I started with them on JV, they are a lot stronger and a lot faster,” Snape said. “They have gained a lot of experience with each other, so this year will be a good year for us.”

— Kyle Russell

Walt Whitman Vikings

Coach: Pete Kenah, 11th year (147-93)

Last season's record: 14-10

Returning starters: None

Last state tournament appearance: 2007

The Vikings might not return any starters, but they're certainly not short on talent.

Though two-time defending state champion Gaithersburg is still the favorite to come out of the Class 4A West Region, most teams graduated big-name players, leaving the region more unpredictable than recent history.

Returning seniors Linn Bumpers and three-year varsity shooting guard Brittany Fleck are joined by a new crop of players up from a junior varsity team that has not lost a game in two years.

Kenah said the team consists of 11 interchangeable parts.

And the Vikings can go big, with 6-foot-3 Rebecca Ford and 6-foot-1 Avery Whit, or take a more guard-oriented approach.

“I like the versatility of our lineup,” Kenah said. “We're really excited.”

— Jennifer Beekman

Thomas S. Wootton Patriots

Coach: Maggie Dyer, 9th year (125-80)

Last season's record: 8-16

Returning starters: Five

Last state tournament appearance: None

Last year's squad consisted of more new players than returners.

The result? Coach Maggie Dyer had a lot of teaching to do.

Much of that team is back this winter, though, which means there's less teaching and more fine-tuning.

“It makes everything run smoother in practice,” Dyer said. “After going through last year, I think we're definitely going to be stronger, the girls are a lot more familiar with our play and with each other.”

Last year was Wootton's first losing campaign in six years, but the Patriots seem to be back in the mix this season with all five starters back.

The Patriots will push the ball more this year, Dyer said. That team speed will also be helpful on the defensive side.

— Jennifer Beekman