For the first time in years, Marian head coach Paul Brutto was forced to rebuild.
With a roster full of youth, inexperience and unknowns, the Fillies finished last season with a record of 14-9.
It marked the first time in eight years that Marian didn't win 20 games and the first time since the 1992-1993 season that they won 14 games or less.
This season, however, the picture seems to be a little clearer, and according to Brutto, a little more optimistic.
"Last year, we were young and we played about 10 different starting lineups due to inconsistency," stated Brutto. "We had three or four freshmen playing and then Gillian (Ferko) transferred in during the middle of the season, so I think we're a little more stable going into this year with a better team chemistry."
While Marian must replace Janine Patton's 6.86 points per game and team-leading 21 three pointers, not to mention her leadership and competitive edge, Brutto can be encouraged by the fact that he returns 82-percent of last year's offense, seven of his top eight scorers and four starters from a season ago.
Anchoring the offense once again will be Ferko, a 5-10 junior forward that offers a strong inside presence and is the team's primary post-up player. In only 13 games last season, the Allentown Central Catholic transfer amassed 11.62 points per game and led the team in rebounds, averaging close to a double-double per game.
Joining Ferko in the starting lineup are 5-8 senior forward Jen Linkchorst (6.71 ppg) and 5-10 sophomore forward Danielle Tristani (7.39 ppg).
According to Brutto, Linkhorst is a versatile forward that can shoot from the perimeter as well as handle the ball. Meanwhile, Tristani offers athleticism and length and is regarded as the team's best shot blocker.
Seniors Katie Ferrello and Emily Kennedy look to be splitting time at point guard, while the other guard position with be manned by a combination of Kaysi McLaughlin, Kaycee Gutsie and Angela Bellezza.
McLaughlin averaged 5.5 points per game last season, while Bellezza is a transfer from Hazleton Area who is being considered as the team's best outside shooter.
Coming off the bench are forward Kelly Shober (5-10 sophomore), Theresa Patten (5-8 senior) and Corrine Markiewicz (5-8 junior), as well as sophomore guard Madison Monaco.
"I think we have a lot of flexibility this year, and by that I mean we have a lot of players that are fairly equal talentwise," added Brutto. "That definitely allows us some competitive depth, as we're looking at a top 8-10 instead of a starting five. We want to pressure teams defensively and wear them down, so having a deep bench will definitely play to our advantage."
Defensively, Marian held its opponents to a TIMES NEWS-leading 36.96 points per game last season, but the offense averaged just 42.48 points, a total which is a concern to Brutto entering this season.
"Scoring definitely concerns me because I'm not really sure where we're going to get points from on the perimeter. If we don't get scoring opportunities from the outside, I don't know how we're going to be able to take advantage of things inside because teams will just sag off or play zone against us."
While Marian would like to make it back into the Schuylkill League Playoffs and get past the first round of Districts (something the Fillies failed to do last season), they will have to contend with Nativity (the defending Schuylkill League Champion, the defending District 11 Class A Champion and the PIAA State runner-up in Class A).
"Nativity will definitely present a huge challenge for us," concluded Brutto. "But we can't worry about other teams right now. We need to worry about us and the rest will take care of itself."