The phrase "four-peat" isn't being heard much at Old Mill these days.
True, the Patriots are gunning for a fourth consecutive Class 4A state championship, but the loss of four starters -- including two first-team All-Metro selections -- doesn't make them the prohibitive favorite this year.
And rivals like Chesapeake's Dennis Thiele, last year's Baltimore Sun Girls Basketball Coach of the Year for Anne Arundel County, figure it's about time.
"They're in the same position my softball team is going to be in this spring after losing seven of nine starters. We'll be rebuilding and everyone else will be happy about that," he said. "Old Mill will still be strong, but teams have a better chance of running with them on the floor. I don't think you'll see 30-, 40-, 50-point deficits this year."
Can Old Mill overcome the odds and again compete for a state title? Or will Annapolis, under new coach Dave Griffith, take advantage of its wealth of talent and experience and unseat the Patriots? How about Chesapeake, which returns all but one player? Or perhaps someone else will emerge to take Old Mill's place.
"You play teams twice and there could be a lot of splitting going on," Thiele said. "It's going to be more even in Anne Arundel County. We'll be beating each other up."
The following is a closer look at the county's 12 public school girls basketball teams, along with private schools Archbishop Spalding, Severn and St. Mary's:
The only real change at Annapolis this year will be seen on the bench, where Teresa Ross used to reside. She left after three seasons as coach, and Griffith, her former assistant, will try to keep the Panthers headed in the right direction.
That shouldn't be difficult. Last season, Annapolis went 19-6 and reached the Class 4A, Region IV final despite not having any seniors. That means everyone returns this fall, and the Panthers have been thrust into the role of favorites.
"They kind of have to be the front-runner," said Severna Park coach Kevin McGrath.
Other coaches are saying the same thing, but Griffith replies: "I don't necessarily agree with them, but we'll be good. If everything goes the way it should, I think we've got a lot to be excited about."
One sound reason is 6-foot-1 senior center Shannon Henderson, a second-team All-Metro selection who can dominate games with her rebounding and inside scoring. Last year, she led the Panthers with 18.8 points and 12.2 rebounds a game. She also averaged two blocks, two assists and three steals, and shot 47 percent from the field.
The team won't rely solely on Henderson, though. The backcourt includes 5-6 senior Cristi Samaras, a second-team All-County guard who led the team in steals and assists. Samaras, 5-7 senior Janelle Queen and 5-5 junior Emily Nugent all can play the point or shooting guard. Queen most likely will start at small forward, however.
The lineup also will include 5-7 sophomore forward Stephanie Samaras.
Also returning from last season are 5-6 junior guard Artina Trader, 5-6 sophomore forward Ginny Dauses, 5-6 junior guard Tia Brown and 5-7 senior forward Aleks Rhines. Trader is making a strong push for a starting berth, though Griffith probably will bring her off the bench. Either way, she will see plenty of minutes.
Three newcomers should make the team, led by 5-4 senior forward Kiva Henderson, "a real physical and strong player underneath," Griffith said. But Henderson won't be available for a couple of weeks because of an injured ankle. Freshmen Kristin Kapusta (5-5 guard) and Meredith Stewart (5-7 forward) also have joined the varsity.
Griffith said there won't be major changes in his first year as coach, except that "we'll try to pick up the tempo a little bit. Otherwise, things will be the same."
Annapolis' first game is Thursday against Westminster. The Panthers also play Severna Park, Old Mill and St. Mary's before Christmas, so they will be tested early and often.
Kristie Lilly is being put to the test in her first year as coach at Archbishop Spalding.
The team lost six players to graduation, and two others didn't come out this year. A young team just got younger.
And Lilly's job just got tougher.
Gone is guard Amy Langville, the Catholic League's and the Baltimore Sun for Anne Arundel County's Player of the Year. She led Spalding in every category and was named to the All-Metro first team.
Guard Kelly Mabe also graduated, and Lilly is left with a roster that includes six sophomores and one freshman. Only four players return, and three of them are sophomores.
"We have a lot of talent, and hopefully, we can put it all together and come through with a pretty good season. We just need to make up for our inexperience and youth, and we'll be OK," said Lilly, a former player at Glenelg and Johns Hopkins who replaces Paul Leimkuhler.
The most experienced player is 5-11 senior center Carrie Parsons. Sophomores Stephanie Paxson (5-10 forward/guard), Shannon Cashour (5-10 forward) and Trish Kircher (5-7 guard) also return. They form a nucleus that Lilly hopes to build upon with a group of newcomers -- the most promising being 5-4 junior Maryland Arciaga, a point guard on last year's junior-varsity team.
"She looks pretty good. I hope to get a lot of leadership from her," Lilly said.
Lilly said 5-4 freshman point guard Kathleen O'Hara has "a lot of potential." She joins 5-5 sophomore guard Gilda Zoccola, 5-6 junior guard Bonnie Hare, 5-7 junior forward Amanda Adams, 5-7 senior forward Jen Cordery, 5-5 sophomore guard Jennifer O'Neill and 5-8 sophomore forward Christina Gribbin.
Lilly wants her team to be able to push the ball up the floor and play aggressive, man-to-man defense. "Hopefully, our youth won't hold us back from doing that," she said.
Spalding, which went 16-8 and lost to St. Mary's in the semifinals of the Catholic League Tournament, opened its season Friday at Prospect Hall.
Arundel went 14-10 and made it to the Class 4A, Region IV semifinals last year, but a repeat performance will be more difficult. The Wildcats' starting lineup will have a drastically different look because of graduation.
Is all hope lost? That depends on how much the seven returnees can produce, and if the players up from last season's 19-1 junior varsity are ready for prime time.
Two sophomores who were on the varsity last year should start: 5-8 forward Jen Mottar and 5-5 guard Shannon Noon. Courtney Finch, a 5-2 senior, will run the offense.
Other potential starters will come from a batch of returnees that includes 5-6 senior guard Jen Breneman, 5-5 senior guard Ann Breneman, 6-1 senior center Julie Musitano and 5-8 senior forward Lesley Knowles.
Coach Lee Rogers has added six players to the varsity: 5-2 sophomore guard Lisa Howard, 5-6 sophomore guard/forward Marcia Levin, 5-4 sophomore point guard Kara Kitchen, 5-10 sophomore center Christy Covington, 5-10 sophomore forward Shavonne Hammond and 5-7 freshman guard/forward Lachelle McHenry.
"We lost most of our outside perimeter people," Rogers said, expressing his greatest concern. "It's going to be hard to replace our perimeter game. And inside, we have some problems scoring. We had that problem last year, too. We've got to find a way to fix that.
"I think we're going to be competitive, but how competitive, I don't know. Our goal is to finish at .500, and anything above that is going to be a plus for us."
Arundel opens its season tomorrow against Poly.
Broadneck lost just one starter from last season, guard Missy Lewandowski, but she was the leading scorer on a team that had trouble producing points.
And that's the biggest problem facing the Bruins this season.
"We didn't score much or give up much last year," said coach Bruce Springer, whose squad was beaten by Arundel, 32-31, in the Class 4A, Region IV quarterfinals on a last-second steal and shot by the Wildcats' Virginia Gonski. "Our offense has been a concern to us so far. We feel like we're pretty sound defensively, but losing a perimeter shooter and scorer does concern you. We've got to find a way to make that up somehow."
Most of Broadneck's scoring should come inside with 5-11 senior center Julie Barr -- a member of the All-County third team who averaged around 10 points and 10 rebounds -- and 5-10 junior forward Jessica Marshall. The roster also contains 6-0 junior centers Katie Forthofer and Theresa Koester, and 5-10 freshman forward Sarah Brino.
"Our strength will be our rebounding ability," Springer said.
Returning to the backcourt are 5-5 senior Katy Kemerer and 5-5 junior Jill Smith. Alicia Nagowski, a 5-6 sophomore, can play both guard and forward.
Sophomore Tara Jensen and junior Michelle Trudeau -- both 5-9 returnees -- will play at forward.
Depth will be provided by Syveeta Stansburty (5-6 junior), Taci Williams (5-7 junior), Brandi Ray (5-9 junior), Stacy Cronin (5-5 junior) and Sara Farrant (5-8 sophomore).
Broadneck has dropped to the 3A classification, where it will run into a tough group of Howard County schools, led by Mount Hebron, which has moved up from 2A.
"They are one of powerhouses," Springer said. "It's not an easy region. We're going from a strong 4A to a real strong 3A. It's going to be real interesting."
The Bruins open the season Friday at Frederick.
Chesapeake was one of the surprise teams in the county last season, qualifying for the region playoffs for the first time since 1985. And now, Thiele will be surprised if the Cougars don't make a return trip.
"We can get in there again," he said. And Thiele feels that way despite losing his leading scorer, Denise Perrone, to graduation.
That's because Perrone was the only senior on last year's team. Nine players return, along with two others who are up from the junior varsity.
"We have 11 players on the squad and I expect all 11 to contribute," said Thiele, who guided Chesapeake to 10 wins and the sixth seed in the Class 4A, Region IV playoffs.
The top returnees are 5-8 senior forward Megan Van Wambeke, who averaged 8.8 points a game, 5-5 junior point guard Sandra Norris (8.6), and 5-5 senior guard Lori Wlordarczyk (6.0). Two other seniors, 5-2 guard Jenny Lewis and 5-5 guard Kim Woody, also will get extensive playing time.
Thiele has seven juniors, including 5-10 forward/center Kim Watson, 5-6 guard/forward Jen Jovan, 5-10 forward/center Jamie Parsons, 5-11 forward/center Jen Buck, 5-7 forward Erika Herron and 6-0 center Cristina Begentesh. Herron and Begentesh were called up from the JV.
"I expect each kid who contributed last year to up their point total by two or three. That should help make up for Denise," Thiele said. "I have a bunch of young 11th-graders, but they're working together very well right now. We're losing our outside shooter in Denise, so we're still working on our outside game. But we're developing a pretty strong inside game and that should help us around the boards. With this much height, I'm looking to control the boards on both ends of the floor, and hopefully, that will help us in other respects."
Chesapeake opens the season tomorrow against Archbishop Spalding.
In her first two seasons as coach, Patty Dages has improved Glen Burnie's record from 3-18 to 8-14. And she thinks the program can continue to go forward, even though this year's roster is devoid of any seniors.
"I anticipate better success this year. Our goal right now is to win 10 to 12 games," she said.
For that to happen, the Gophers will need to find some leadership on the court. Dages is hoping it will come from at least one of her four returning players: juniors Bridget Davis (5-3 guard), Tammy Carson (5-10 forward) and Heather Hutson (5-9 forward) and sophomore Stacey Ellenberger (5-7 forward). Davis led the Gophers in scoring last season with around 10 points a game.
The newcomers include three freshmen guards -- Jenny Lanham (5-5), Nicole Delorenzo (5-4) and Aimee St. Hilaire (5-2) -- who could "all play a big part if they mature quickly," Dages said.
Coming up from the junior varsity are 5-7 junior forward Chantel Kornegay, 5-4 junior guard Latonya Smith, 5-9 sophomore forward Heather Harbeson and 5-7 sophomore forward Nicole Bjork. Another addition is 5-2 junior guard Mandy Sikes, who played on the varsity as a freshman and spent last season on the JV.
"It's still a rebuilding year, but I anticipate more success from the kids who have played under me the past year or two," Dages said.
Glen Burnie begins the season Friday against Annapolis.
Meade is coming off a brutal 0-20 season, when injuries and a lack of talent doomed the Mustangs. They have lost their leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, Adrian Toles, to graduation. Only three players return.
Can it actually get worse than 0-20?
No, says fifth-year coach Molly Wilson. True, her Mustangs are short -- the tallest player is 5-10 sophomore newcomer Shalisa Johnson, and the next-tallest player stands 5-8 -- and they don't have as much experience as most of the county teams. But there are reasons to be optimistic.
One is the return of senior Connie Fink, a 5-8 guard/forward. She joins two other players back from last season: 5-5 sophomore guard Mary Rafter and 5-7 junior guard/forward Jocelyn Frobish.
Perhaps the biggest reason that Wilson isn't fretting about the season is 5-5 sophomore guard Tresa Silcott, a transfer from Howard who brings varsity experience and more aggression than the Mustangs have possessed in recent years. She instantly makes Meade a better team than last season.
As a freshman, she helped the Lions to their first state-tournament appearance, scoring 27 points and grabbing 25 rebounds in two region playoff wins. She would have been a starter at the beginning of the year, but she missed the first 13 games with a hand injury suffered during a scrimmage.
Other newcomers to the program are 5-4 junior guard Debbie Hartley, 5-3 freshman guard Amy Cronin, 5-4 senior guard Noni Strogen, 5-7 junior guard Lakita Stewart, 5-7 freshman forward Cortina Nicholson and 5-7 sophomore forward Chantell Madison.
"We feel good about what we have," said Wilson, a 1983 Meade graduate who led the Mustangs to a 12-9 record during her first season as coach -- their last winning record. "They're working hard and they feel good about themselves. Experience won't be as big a factor as it looks. A lot of these girls have playing experience. They've been playing for some time. They have more basketball instincts than I've seen here."
Meade's first game is tomorrow against Suitland.
Coach Sally Entsminger knows that Joy Farmer will get points. And plenty of rebounds.
She just hopes the other players on the team will contribute enough to prevent a second-straight losing season.
"We're depending on other people doing more," she said. "You can't center on one person."
Farmer, a 6-0 senior, averaged around 17 points and 14 rebounds last year, but it wasn't enough to carry North County into the playoffs. The Knights lost three starters to graduation -- and four seniors altogether -- but Entsminger is expecting to see some improvement.
"We're looking for more perimeter scoring," she said.
Among the players who could elevate the outside game are senior Emma Ketterle (5-2 guard) and juniors T. C. Horney (5-11 forward), Chanel Jackson (5-1 guard), Anne Ketterle (5-2 guard) and Michelle Dillow (5-4 guard).
"I see a lot of improvement already," Entsminger said.
Forwards Tiffany Carr (a 5-7 senior) and Sara Helms (a 5-11 junior) have returned. Juniors Joy Brooks (5-1 guard), Jennifer Bilheimer (5-7 forward), Vicki Mueller (5-7 forward) and Jackie Weckesser (5-11 center) and sophomores Keishia George (5-11 center) and Kristy White (5-11 forward/center) are up from the junior varsity. Junior Melissa Barnhardt (a 5-11 forward) didn't play basketball last year.
North County opens the season tomorrow against Lansdowne.
Northeast coach Calvin Vain welcomes back all five players who were starters by the end of last season. There isn't much height, but few Class 2A teams will be able to run the floor with the speedy Eagles.
Northeast, which lost to Central in the region semifinals, will have 5-5 sophomore Kristin Briggs directing the offense. She will make sure to get the ball to leading scorers Jen Johansen (15.0 ppg) and Jamie Pleyo (12.0 ppg) -- both 5-5 junior guards. Maleah Rey, a 5-6 junior forward, and Amy Van Fossen, a 5-7 junior center, also will start.
Johansen was a third-team All-County selection.
Senior center Jen Barrett (5-9), junior guard Kellie Marshall (5-5) and sophomore forward Anna Otto (5-7) also played on the varsity last season.
Vain has three players up from the junior varsity, including 5-10 junior center Tamika Bethel, who offers some much-needed size. She joins sophomore forward Tiffany Kess (5-7) and junior guard/forward Kellie Frashure (5-6). Marcia Gaskins, a 5-7 junior guard/forward, transferred from Texas.
"I feel real good about this team," Vain said. "We have excellent team speed, a little more depth than last year and another year of maturity. The scoring should be real balanced. The lack of height will hurt us more than anything when they get us under the boards. We play a fast game and try to eliminate that disadvantage."
The Eagles opened the season today at Notre Dame Prep.
All-Metro players Anne Chicorelli and Stacy Himes are gone. So are fellow starters Christine Baer -- the team's second-leading scorer behind Chicorelli -- and Debbie Dawson, as well as the top two reserves, guard Lee Ann Lezzer and forward Allison Wentworth. Lezzer started all but the last four games, and her contribution in the state final was a key behind Old Mill's 59-35 rout of then-No. 1 Western.
The only returning starter for the Patriots is guard Michelle Salmon, and she won't join practices until later this week after making the United States Youth Soccer Association's under-17 All-American team.
Where does this leave Old Mill, which went 25-1 and became the first Class 4A school to win three consecutive state championships in girls basketball?
"We don't look very good so far," coach Pat Chance said last week. "We're trying to work new people into our system and we look very ragged. We're very much out of sync. We don't look like a team, we look like five individuals on the floor. There's a lot of work to do if we're going to be competitive this year."
Besides Salmon, a 5-5 guard and the team's leading returning scorer at around five points a game, the other players with varsity experience are twins Tiffany and Tinnell Slade -- junior guards known for their speed and ball-handling skills -- 5-11 senior forward/center Jackie Bardelli, 5-11 junior forward Kerri Eland and 6-0 junior forward/center Dana Dawson.
Chance figures to find five starters out of this group. Her reserves will include 5-6 senior guard Lanita Talley -- a transfer from Illinois -- 5-9 senior forward Jen Welsh, 5-7 junior guard Mary Chicorelli, 5-3 sophomore guard Ebony Simms, 5-5 sophomore guard Julie Smith and 5-11 sophomore forward Holly Shaffer.
Don't bother asking Chance about qualifying for the playoffs and possibly keeping the string of state championships alive. "Basically, the goal I've set is trying to work these kids hard on the things we've always done in the past and see how far we go with it. I haven't even thought of the playoffs. Our main goal is to see how much improvement we can make from now to the end of the season," she said.
Old Mill's first game is Friday against Chesapeake, and for a change, the Patriots won't be expected to run away with the 4A League title. "It's not where you start the race," Chance said, "it's where you finish it."
If St. Mary's is going to win a third consecutive Catholic League Tournament championship, it will do so without five players lost to graduation, and a sixth lost to a season-ending knee injury.
Anne Donovan, Missy Holmes and Jen Segree led the cast of players who departed after their senior years. But coach Harry Dobson wasn't expecting to be without 6-1 sophomore wing Jennifer Manning.
Time to panic? Not with the return of 5-6 senior guard Bridget Smith and 5-10 junior forward Annetta Davis. "I'm sure we'll go as far as Bridget and Annetta take us," Dobson said.
Davis made second-team All-Metro after leading the Saints in scoring (14.5 ppg) and rebounding (13 rpg). She had 15 points and 22 rebounds against Spalding in the Catholic League Tournament semifinals, and set a school record with 23 rebounds in a 61-39 win over Mercy in the finals.
Smith, a second-team All-County pick, averaged 12.5 points and seven assists.
The duo also helped St. Mary's win 24 games, including the Baltimore Girls Independent Championship, 48-41, over Bryn Mawr.
The guard position is St. Mary's strength, and that includes 5-10 junior Kris Miller, 5-6 junior Erin Hon, 5-10 sophomore Amanda Bourgeois, 5-5 junior Annmarie Pringle and 5-8 freshmen Nicole Foran and Amy Grace.
Forwards Tara Foran and Sarah Schaffner (5-11 sophomores) and Molly Lingoski (5-10 freshman) round out the roster.
"We've got to get some depth," Dobson said. "We're quicker than were last year. We have more team speed."
Dobson thinks his team, which opened on Friday at Bullis Prep, will get strong challenges in the league from St. Frances, Mercy and IND, and he calls Mount de Sales and Seton Keough the "sleepers."
Coach Rhonda Warmsley-George figured that her team, with five starters returning, would be pretty good. And that opinion didn't change after four games.
Severn began this season 4-0, and as expected, two sophomores have led the way -- guard Monique Jennings and center Kate Graw.
Last year, Jennings averaged a team-high 12.6 points, dished out 40 assists and made 78 steals. Graw was the leading rebounder with 144, and had the second-highest scoring average (7.6 ppg). And they've shown no signs of slacking off.
In the first three games, Jennings twice has been the Admirals' leading scorer, and Graw has held the honor once. They have made Severn's present, and future, look awfully promising.
Warmsley-George has called Jennings the fastest player that she's coached at Severn.
"She is definitely the spark, the catalyst of the whole team," said Warmsley-George, whose team went 13-5 last year and lost to St. Paul's in the first round of the Association of Independent Schools tournament. "She definitely gets the team going."
There have been other contributors to the early-season run. Emily Franey and Heidi Hammes each have scored in double-figures. And Warmsley-George expects to receive ample
production from 5-10 senior center/forward Melissa Morlock, 5-4 senior guard Sarah Long, 5-7 senior forward Becky Paul, 5-8 junior forward Caroline Cassidy, 5-9 junior center Emily Long and 5-4 sophomore guard Julie Tice -- all back from last season.
Three freshmen have stuck on the varsity: 5-11 centers Lauren Batte and Ann Pailthorp, and 5-6 forward Meghan Bauer.
Warmsley-George tempers her enthusiasm, though, when projecting how well the Admirals can do this winter. The Association of Independent Schools has been realigned again, and this time, Severn has moved up from the B to A Conference, which has been split into two divisions -- the Red and Blue. Severn has been placed in the Red Division, with Roland Park, Park and Bryn Mawr.
"We're playing all the toughest teams," she said. "But we can be competitive and have a winning season."
After watching his team during the first weeks of practices and scrimmages, coach Kevin McGrath described Severna Park as "a mixed mess." He still wasn't sure which positions were the best fit for certain players.
This is an understandable problem for McGrath. After all, this is not an ordinary Falcons team. He has more height than in past years, but less speed and quickness.
"I'm trying to figure out where the smaller players belong. I've been putting them all over the place," he said.
Five Falcons return from last season, when the team lost to Annapolis, 47-45, in the Class 4A, Region IV semifinals. Six-foot seniors Jen Hatch and Keisha Brown give Severna Park an intimidating inside presence. Jen Conner, a 5-9 senior, will play small forward, and 5-9 senior Erin McNeally will help at point and shooting guard. Sandy Jenkin, a 5-9 junior, can play small forward and point guard.
McGrath's concerns about a lack of quickness were eased somewhat when Conner and McNeally arrived at practice after finishing up with their fall teams. "Those two kids added into the equation really upgrade us," he said.
Five players are up from the junior varsity: senior Meg Jones (a 5-9 forward/center), junior Alli Adams (a 5-7 guard), junior Shauna Moran (a 5-8 forward), sophomore Lauryn McAlister (a 5-8 guard) and sophomore Jen Holmes (a 6-1 center). Also, 5-8 sophomore guard/forward Angela DeSalvo transferred from Florida.
McGrath is hoping that somewhere in this "mixed mess," he can find suitable replacements for leading scorers Kris Drapalski and Amy Carnaggio, and leading rebounders Drapalski and Kate Marks.
"Most of these girls have been brought up playing close to the bucket. We're trying to make perimeter-type people out of some of these people. That's been the big challenge, figuring out who's going to be where," McGrath said.
"We've improved by leaps and bounds already. We've still got a long way to go yet, but I expect us to be a playoff contender."
McGrath will learn more about his team in the season-opener tomorrow at Northern-Calvert, which has moved into Severna Park's region this year.
This is one of coach Linda Kilpatrick's deepest and more experienced teams, and she is banking on "senior leadership" to take Southern into the state tournament.
Last year, the Bulldogs won 13 games and went to the Class 2A, Region III semifinals, where they lost to Fairmont Heights, 59-55. And this season, they bring everyone back.
The catalyst again will be 5-11 Laekeka Wesley, who is versatile enough to play any position. Her ball-handling skills and soft shooting touch in the paint made her especially difficult to defend, and it all added up to team highs in scoring (18.0 ppg) and rebounding (16.4), and a place on the All-Metro second team. She also shot 53 percent from the field and had 98 steals.
The roster contains 13 players -- an unusually high number for Southern. "We had a lot who tried out, and when that happens I try to keep as many as possible," Kilpatrick said.
Senior Leketia Mullen, a 5-11 forward/center, definitely is a keeper. Last year, she averaged around 10 points and 10 rebounds, teaming with Wesley to give Southern one of the better one-two punches in the metro area. She was chosen to the All-County third team.
The other three starters should be 5-4 senior guard Kari Sherbert, 5-7 senior guard Laura Stockett and 5-8 senior guard/forward Julie Christiansen.
Two other seniors return: 6-0 center Lisa Biederman and 5-7 guard Megan Ebersole. Juniors Tyra Neal (5-8 guard), Becky Archambo (5-5 guard) and Krista Borden (5-10 forward) also are back.
Kilpatrick added three newcomers from the junior varsity to strengthen the backcourt: 5-5 junior guard Kim Marable, 5-6 sophomore guard Caroline Duffy and 5-4 sophomore guard Missy Bond.
"Right now, our guards are still questionable. We have a lot back and they're experienced, but they have to do it on the floor," said Kilpatrick, whose team opens tomorrow at Lackey.
"One good thing about having so many experienced players is I don't have to spend as much time teaching. I can do more on refining and adding some new things."
Kilpatrick's goals haven't changed. Nothing less than the playoffs will suffice, and "there's a more realistic chance that we should be able to go to the states," she said.
Ronald G. Price is the third coach at South River in the last three years, and he says, "The girls are learning new offenses and defenses, so they're not clicking as a team."
But he expects that to change shortly.
The Seahawks (5-17 last season) could be one of the more improved teams in the county. They have their two leading scorers back in 6-0 senior center Pam Patterson (15 ppg) and 5-5 junior guard Cassidie Dunbar (11 ppg). Patterson made the All-County second team.
Jessica Marion (a 5-7 sophomore) missed most of last season with a knee injury. She has returned and will share time at point guard with 5-5 sophomore Amy Nye.
Senior Paula McDonald (a 5-5 guard) is back for her fourth varsity season. Junior Shannon Burchell (5-5 guard), and seniors Jen Taylor (5-10 forward), Mary Scanlon (5-5 forward) and Amy Perry (5-7 forward) also return.
Sophomores Beth Salley (a 5-10 forward) and Tara Andrews (a 5-5 guard) were brought up from the junior varsity. Andrews played the point last year, but will move to shooting guard.
Chiara Lee (a 5-7 senior forward) has joined the team after missing the last two seasons with a knee injury.
"We're setting our sights on at least doing better than .500," said Price, a former JV coach and varsity assistant at South River. "We've got a lot of speed at guard and the experience of Patterson at center. With Marion and a few other girls healthy, we can do a lot better. I wouldn't put the playoffs out of the question if we jell as a team and work together. We have to keep the bigger girls out of foul trouble.
"I'm real optimistic about the program. The kids are into it and really want to be successful."
The Seahawks will press more this season to take advantage of their speed at guard, "rather than try to kick back under the boards and play a tight zone," Price said. "We've got to get out and steal the ball from their guards."
South River, which dropped to 2A status this year, plays host to La Plata tomorrow.