For Glenelg, the adjustment period is over, and second-year coach Randy Wallenhorst plans to start moving up in the standings.
Stability is the main reason. When Wallenhorst arrived last season, the Gladiators had endured four coaches in four years. Now that the players, including three returning starters, know Wallenhorst's system, the Gladiators should begin to climb up from their 9-13 record of a year ago.
Not that the Gladiators did all that poorly last season. They finished fifth in Howard County and qualified for the Class 2A regional playoffs. In the regional semifinals, they fell to North Carroll by one point.
But Wallenhorst sees some key improvements in this year's experienced team.
"We're a much deeper team this year," said Wallenhorst. "The difference between our first and second teams will not be a lot. We can substitute pretty strongly, and it makes for a much more competitive practice."
Kim Brown (a 5-foot-8 junior) leads the returning starters. The point guard scored six points a game and added 2.2 assists and two steals per game.
Christina Flowers also returns to the starting lineup. A 5-9 senior forward, Flowers added 3.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. Sometime-starter 5-11 senior center Trish Kilroy also is back, bringing 4.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. Last year's sixth man, 5-10 sophomore guard Jill Younce, returns 3.6 points per game.
The Gladiators also could get a boost from newcomer Gracia Walker, who should fit right into the starting rotation. A transfer from Glenelg Country School, the 5-10 junior forward averaged about 10 points per game last season.
The rest of Wallenhorst's lineup should see plenty of action, including a couple of transfers from California, 5-10 senior center Corie Coughlin and 5-8 junior forward Jennifer Bailey. Five other juniors round out the roster -- 5-9 guard Carrie Brown, 5-9 forward Erica Beale, 5-10 forward Robin Barnard, 5-5 guard Emily Cox and 5-8 guard Natalee Green.
With a quicker team, Wallenhorst hopes to turn a strong defense into some additional offense. Last year, the Gladiators had inexperience at guard, but this season, Brown, Younce and even Flowers could force a lot of turnovers.
"Our goal is to win 16 games," said Wallenhorst, who sees the Gladiators battling with Howard, Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills for the third-place spot behind Hammond and Mount Hebron. "[Winning] the regional is going to be tough because we have Hammond, but getting there is a goal. We'd like to make it two years in a row."