Palmerton head girls basketball coach Don Delich and his team always have the same expectations entering every new season.
Delich, in his ninth year at the helm with a 108-88 career record, expects his team to be able to play with any team in the Colonial League, despite losing four starters and his first player off the bench from a team that lost to Allentown Central Catholic in the District 11 3A semifinals last season.
"Our expectations are to make the league tournament, get into district play again and ultimately get into the state playoffs," Delich said. "That's a real tall order in 3A with some quality teams out there, including Central, who returns four starters."
Delich will build this year's team around 6-2 senior Kelsey Hay, who was the Colonial League MVP last year and enters the season with 988 career points, needing 12 in the season opener at Lehighton on Friday to hit the century mark.
"We had a pretty good year and we lost four seniors, all who were a very big part in the success we had," Delich added.
"Casey Rinfret, who was first team all-league is really going to be hard to replace at the one guard spot. She was a three-year starter. Katie Reimer was a two-year starter and steady player. Gina Farquhar was our best defensive player who drew a hard assignment every night of guarding the other team's best offensive player. Sam Smith was a valuable person of the bench and replacing them will be tough.."
Hay, who is in her third year as captain, is a Penn recruit for track, will have a a lot of weight on her shoulders, along with her co-captain Jen Snyder, who started quite a bit last year.
"Jen is going to be the one that draws the tough assignment of guarding the best player on the other team," Delich noted. "Whether they're a guard or a big girl, she's going to have to do the job.'"We have some quality kids, but lack varsity experience so there is going to be some growing pains early in the year.
"What's really important is how well we get off in the beginning and if we get any confidence going because we have a couple of tough league opponents in Bangor and Northwestern that first week."
Rounding out the starting five will likely be Emily Meinhart at the four spot, Morgan Mummey will be the two guard and freshman Jade Farquhar will man the point.
"She's got some big shoes to fill but she's a quality player and has a super career ahead of her," Delich added.
Seniors Michelle Rickert and Kelsey Eaton will come off the bench, both have been in the program a long time in a supporting role. Morgan Hadinger is coming up from the junior varsity team and will play some also. Senior Sarah Graver and junior Gabby Alban also look to see playing time. Junior Joelle Reinhart is also a member of the team but will take a medical leave this season.
Delich sees the Colonial League as tough as ever and the North Division is just murder.
"Bangor and Northwestern had very good summers," said Delich. "Northern Lehigh still has Aimee Oertner and Tina Bastardi. Southern Lehigh, the returning league champ, has quality kids back and an undefeated JV team. Notre Dame is also a strong, experienced team. There is probably six teams that could win the league this year and even teams on the bottom half have made great strides.
"We always set our sights high and we're not going to be happen unless we attain a bunch of those things," Delich said.