Four years ago, Marian relied on its height and considerable size advantage to capture the 2008 Class A State Championship.

This season, the only things than can be considered "big" on the Fillies roster are hopes and dreams.

However, for head coach Paul Brutto, that's not a bad thing, it's just part of the process.

"We're a small team this year. In four years, we've gone from one of the biggest teams around to really being a tiny team," stated Brutto. "We may not be strong physically, so we need to be strong fundamentally and use our speed and quickness to our advantage."

"Usually, we set goals, but we really haven't this year, other than the fact of getting better every day," added Brutto. "This is a process and if we take care of the process, hopefully by the end of the year we'll be playing in some games that matter."

The Filles have qualified for the District 11 playoffs in 38 straight years, and that streak is expected to continue this season with a solid nucleus of players returning from last year's 20-5 team.

Senior forwards Danielle Tristani (5-10) and Kelly Shober (5-9) are back for Marian, while Kaysi McLaughlin returns at guard. Although Shober's status for the beginning of the season is questionable with a knee injury, Tristani and McLaughlin have been starting for Marian since their freshman seasons and provide plenty of experience and leadership to an otherwise young roster.

"We have three kids that played a lot during the last four years, and they're a nice core to build around," said Brutto. "But they're going to need some help. In terms of scoring, Tristani and McLaughlin will give us close to double-figures most games, but we'll still need some other people to step up."

Tristani led the Fillies in scoring last year with 9.92 points per game, while McLaughlin (5.84 ppg) was the team's top three-point shooter with 24 treys.

Joining them in the starting lineup will be junior guard Sam Faust and sophomore guard Gabby Green. As a freshman, Green averaged 4.00 ppg while accounting for 20 three-pointers. Senior forward Kim Wilson also figured to see significant minutes, especially if Shober isn't ready to go right out of the gate.

Missing from the Marian lineup will be the presence of a true post player, a role occupied by 5-11 forward Gillian Ferko the past two seasons. In her senior season, Ferko averaged 9.80 points per game and led the team in rebounds.

"Without Gillian, our offense will now be more perimeter-oriented," noted Brutto. "We want to space the floor and give people some opportunities to do things with the ball."

With a lack of size, expect to see more perimeter shooting from a Fillies squad that led the TIMES NEWS area last season with 87 three-point field goals.

"Being small, you don't want to play 5-on-5 all the time, so I think it's going to be critical that we can run the floor and create some offense through turnovers," added Brutto. "And speaking of defense, you'll probably see us mixing in a bit more zone defense this year to counter against bigger teams."

Defense has always been a staple at Marian, and that figures to continue this season for a team that gave up a TIMES NEWS area low 30.20 points per game to its opponents last season.

"I honestly think our defense can be just as good, if not better, than last year. However, we don't have any size to go against in practice so it'll be interesting to see how we'll match up with bigger teams," concluded Brutto.

Rounding out the undersized Fillies roster are sophomore guards Emily Sofranko and Lindsay Nemeth, as well as freshman guard Ashley Fannick and freshman forward Bethany Shaud.

But sometimes, good things come in small packages.