The stage is set for the Francis Scott Key Eagles to take a new direction.
Coach Brian Hollingsworth is looking for more balance this season and has a solid group of all-around athletes to work with.
Over the past couple of years, the Eagles relied on one of the steadiest backcourts the county has ever seen -- Erin Murphey and Shelley Smith -- to provide most of the offense and leadership. With the two now playing basketball at Western Maryland College, Hollingsworth is looking for some others to step up and take center stage.
"If this were a play we were talking about, most of these kids were understudies before with bit speaking roles. Now it's a chance for them to be the main actors," he said.
The Eagles return six players who combined to score 47 fewer points last season than Murphey alone, the Eagles' all-time scoring leader who was last year's Player of the Year in the county.
Although plenty of questions remain, Hollingsworth believes the answers will be found as the season progresses. "We're going to need contributions from all 11 players on the roster," he said.
"The seniors will have to pick it up a notch and the rest must follow. Everyone is very positive and they enjoy playing together. It's just a matter of gaining the confidence in what they can do."
The Eagles' roster is full of athletes who are coming off of solid fall seasons.
Senior point guard Paula Koontz led the Eagles' soccer team in scoring and was a second-team All-County selection. An unproven point guard is something Hollingsworth hasn't had to deal with in some time, but he's confident the 5-foot-3 Koontz can step in and do the job.
"Paula is always positive and will have to take charge. Going up against Shelley and Erin every day in practice last year has really improved her skills. She's small, but very scrappy," he said.
Seniors Melanie Montgomery (5-8 forward), Mandy Hansborough (6-1 center), Amber Smith (5-8 guard/forward) and junior Maureen Ritcey (5-5 guard/forward) were all part of the Eagles volleyball team that reached the state playoffs.
Montgomery is in her third season on varsity and worked hard over the summer at camps to improve her game.
Hollingsworth is looking for Hansborough to take the ball hard to the basket to make the most of her height.
Smith is a versatile player who's a proven commodity at the varsity level who can rebound, handle the ball and provide some scoring.
Ritcey started the final 15 games (6.3 ppg) for the Eagles last season and, while she'll mostly play small forward, can play anywhere Hollingsworth needs her.
"She brings a lot of intensity and is one of the players who have been very positive with the younger players," Hollingsworth said.
Also returning is senior Becky Tregoning, who will provide leadership and strong inside play. A first-team All-Metro selection from the state champion field hockey team, Tregoning is working hard to get the most out of her senior year on the court.
Juniors Kelly Jirout, Carri Ryer, Holly Talbert, Jen MacDaniel and sophomore Stacey Greene round out the roster and all will see their share of playing time.
Gaining confidence and meshing as a group will be the keys to the Eagles' season, and Hollingsworth believes a couple of early wins can take care of that.