Palmerton head girls basketball coach Don Delich returns for his seventh season and has to be cautiously optimistic about this year's squad.

Delich returns the offensive firepower of sophomore Kelsey Hay and junior Casey Rinfret, but must replace three key defensive players who graduated last June.

"We lost Erin Parsons, who was a four-year starter at point guard," Delich said. "Alyssa Minnich and Kristen Roberts were two year starters.

"We're going to miss them more on defense than offense. Alyssa always guarded the other team's best offensive player and Erin always guarded their point guard. Kristen took a lot of pressure off of Kelsey (Hay) inside rebounding the ball."

Even though it's a young team, Delich isn't looking at it as rebuilding. He's looking at it more as reloading.

"We have some young kids and think we can be successful with what we have," he said. "We're not going to write the year off by any means. We're looking to contend and compete right now."

Rinfret, a TIMES NEWS first-team All Star and Hay, a second-team selection were the two leading scorers last season. Rinfret averaged 13.1 points per game scoring 301 points, while Hay averaged 12.4 ppg. scoring 285 points.

Kristen Romano and Katie Reimer both started some games and have varsity experience. The other three that have worked hard this summer and Delich is looking for contributions from are Jen Snyder, Gena Farquhar and Samantha Smith.

"I think we have nine girls who have interchangeable parts," said Delich when asked about the strength of his team. "We're going to play 32 minutes of the game hard and hopefully at our tempo. I'm hoping our tempo is going to be such that we're going to wear teams down in the second half."

The biggest thing Delich is working on right now is defense, because that's what he sees as the weak point.

Also adding depth to the varsity roster are Michelle Rickert, Morgan Mummey, Kelsey Eaton, Lauryn Solt, Em Meinhart and Morgan Hadinger.

The goals never change as far as the Lady Bombers are concerned.

"We always want to win the Lehighton Christmas Tournament, the league tournament and hopefully make districts and get into the state tournament," said Delich. "There are a multitude of teams in our division with the re-alignment that can win on any given night, but I think Northern Lehigh returns probably four of the best returning starters and should be the league favorite. "Pen Argyl returns everyone and will be strong and Wilson, Saucon Valley and Southern Lehigh will also be in the hunt.

"I don't think anyone is going to go through the league this year like Bangor did last year and clinch early. I think everybody's going to have at least three losses.

"By the time we get to the end of the regular season, it will be interesting."

So look for the Bombers to give it a run to return to districts, a place they found their way back to last season.