The Lehighton girls basketball team hasn't played an official game yet this season, but second-year coach Ray Bressi already believes the team is better than a year ago.

"We are a better program at this point and we didn't even play a game yet," Bressi said.

Bressi believes the program is better because of how many girls are returning and the fact that they were committed to improving during the offseason.

"All our kids worked hard, and now realize, that if you want to be a part of Lehighton basketball, you have to be committed to the program," Bressi said. "Every time we opened our doors either in the summer or early fall we had anywhere from 18 to 22 players show up to work out.

"The team is more cohesive, focused and much more competitive," Bressi said. "We will be a full court team, use our numbers to our advantage and just play a fun style of basketball. You will see as many as nine or 10 players see varsity time on a consistent basis."

Lehighton has eight letter winners back for this season, comprised mostly of juniors and seniors.

"We have two outstanding seniors, led by Kassaundra Barclay and Emily Shelly," Bressi said. "These two kids are role models for our younger group of players."

Barclay led the Indians in scoring a season ago, averaging 5.5 points per game.

Bressi is also excited about the juniors he has returning for this season.

"We have five outstanding juniors, led by our returning MVP, Taylor Yurasits, and our leading rebounder from a year ago, Schyler Cordova." Bressi said. "Overall, the junior class is a solid group of players."

Other juniors that will be contributing for the Indians will be Amy Smith and Atasha Rehrig.

Bressi believes that depth will be one of Lehighton's strengths this season, largely because so many girls had to play a year ago.

"Our sophomore class has numbers and quality players," said Bressi. "The class is led by Riley Durishin, who started as a freshman. Celina Fital and Brooke Blasiak worked hard and have shown great improvement.

"Add six freshmen that have been with us all summer and you can see we have commitment from top to bottom."

The depth of the program is not limited to Lehighton's varsity and junior varsity teams, according to Bressi.

"Our junior high program is loaded with talented players waiting to move up." Bressi said. "Our junior high program spent the summer and fall working out with our older kids as well.

"So it's easy to say and see why we are a much better program now in only one year than when I took over."

Bressi believes the team will improve last season's total of two wins and be much more competitive in the Mountain Valley Conference and throughout the area.

"This year we are looking to remove ourselves from being the doormat of the league and the area," Bressi said. "We will be much more competitive and overall just a better basketball team."

Bressi has a solid foundation to build on from a season ago and players that believe in what he is doing as a coach.

Bressi has the program on the right track and every reason to believe the team will continue to make progress on and off the court.