With the loss of six graduating seniors who were all key players last year, Northwestern's girls basketball team will have a different look this season.
Only one player, senior Natalie Hill, returns with significant varsity experience. She will lead a team made up mostly of players that played on JV or freshman teams last year.
"With our inexperience at the varsity level it's going to take some time," said head coach Chris Deutsch. "These girls haven't played together very much. We want to improve as the season goes on. If we keep working hard and keep getting improvement, the wins and losses will take care of themselves."
Hill, one of three seniors, is a A 5-10 center/forward who has provided solid defense as well as some scoring the past two seasons, she will be counted on for big contributions at both ends of the floor this season.
"We need a big year out of her for our team to be successful, offensively and defensively," Deutsch said.
A few players return after seeing limited varsity action last year.
Sophomore Sam MacLaughlin, and juniors Jenny Gulick and Jenn Groller give the Tigers three quick guards who are also solid defenders.
Forward Nycole Everett will play forward, while seniors Ashley and Laurie Gimbel will also see varsity action.
Some newcomers to varsity could help the Lady Tigers this season.
Freshman Sara Jones can play small forward or either gaurd spot. Freshman Kaleen Suter could help Hill and Everett in the frontcourt. And sophomore Caileigh Landrigan will play a small forward spot.
"We have a nice combination of older girls and younger girls," Deutsch said. "Rebounding is a concern. We're not the tallest team. We're going to need all five girls to rebound the ball."
As always, Northwestern will focus on defense first and try to get easy baskets in transition. Deutsch likes the way his team plays defense and feels his guards will be able to pressure the ball.
The Lady Tigers went 13-10 overall last year, 11-7 in the Colonial League. They drew the eighth seed for districts and fell to Southern Lehigh, 31-27, after beating the Spartans twice in the regular season.
With the league moving to a two-division format Northwestern will still face former West Division foes Catasauqua, Northern Lehigh and Palmerton each twice this season as those teams are now members of the North Division along with the Tigers, Bangor and Pen Argyl, who they will also face twice.
Unlike years past, teams open league play with five division games.
Northwestern opens the season at home against Tamaqua on Saturday and starts league play Tuesday, December 15 when it hosts Pen Argyl.
"Our schedule is brutal to start the season," Deutsch said. "The more we play together the better we're going to get."