SKYVUE - Monroe Central coach Troy Baker embarks on his 11th season at the helm of the Seminoles girls' basketball program and does so returning some key cogs from a team that finished 15-7, second in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference and advanced to the sectional final before bowing out to West Muskingum.
Senior Chelsea Roberts, a four-year letterwinner is back after averaging a team-leading 10.2 points per game as a junior.
Also back is fellow senior Chelsie Tewanger. Tewanger canned 35 3-pointers as a junior and averaged an even 10 points per night.
Joining the two is a senior Anna LaFollette, a fellow returning letterwinner, who checked in with nearly five points per game.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that is where the meaningful varsity game experience ends.
Monroe Central graduated six seniors off the 2011-2012 team, most notably Demitra Habig and Kayley Stephens, the next two leading scorers at 6.6 and 6.2 per game, respectively.
Also gone is point guard Kelsey Parks (4.7 ppg) along with key backups Casey Digity (4.9), Madison Bettinger and Kate Fickell.
Habig had been a mainstay in the post since her sophomore season and Stephens and Parks had play large roles in the 'Noles recent success.
The remaining returnees from a season ago all averaged less than a point per game.
What that means is Baker will be counting on his experienced seniors, Roberts and Tewanger in particular, to get vocal and start leading the tribe.
"They probably need to step up more in the leadership role," Baker said.
The 5-foot-6 Tewanger provides Baker his top perimeter threat.
She's also an adept ball handler who will provide beneficial support as the 'Noles attempt to break in a new point guard.
"Chelsie is a good shooter, a good ball handler and has good basketball sense," Baker said.
Roberts, also a top-notch volleyball player during the fall, should provide a good-sized portion of the offensive muscle. She's the most versatile and most seasoned, as her final season will witness the senior obtain her fourth letter.
Roberts (5-7) has been in the 6-to-10 points per game range since her freshman campaign and Baker is hoping the guard/forward finally has that breakout year offensively to go with her capable defensive skills.
The final returnee with major court experience is LaFollette, a 5-8 forward.
Replacing Parks at point will be fellow senior Melanie Stimpert.
Stimpert has been running the system on the junior varsity level, so while she may need a few games to adjust to the tempo of the varsity game, she knows the squad's plays and press-breakers. Plus, she'll have the capable hands of Tewanger and Roberts to aid her in her transition.
"We have to stay fundamentally sound and take care of the ball," Baker said. "So far, she's been doing alright. Any first year (varsity) point guard is going to have some growing pains but she's a scrapper and has been working extremely hard.
"She'll take her shots when needed, but she knows her first priority is to dish off."
The Monroe front court's tallest player will be 5-9 senior Elizabeth Robey, whom Baker says has a nice shooting touch to go with her size.
One final senior, Amanda Haslam, should see considerable time at guard. Standing all of 5-3, she has range, as well as a knack for finding an opening among the trees and snaring rebounds.
Three juniors round out what figures to be a short varsity bench early on: Kelsey Dick (5-8), Annie Digity (5-7) and Laycie Ball (5-6).
With a nine-player rotation, limiting injuries and unnecessary fouls will be paramount.
As will the team's level of conditioning.
"We want to be able to play whatever we need to be in in order to be successful," Baker said. "But ideally, we want to try to create a little uptempo atmosphere."
An aggressive philosophy on both ends of the court and only nine players to do it with has translated into quite a few more monsters before and after practice. However, Baker feels they've been up to the challenge.
The coach thinks down the line, a few of the underclassmen may move up and contribute as the season goes on.
But for now, he wants to keep the younger players active at both the junior varsity and freshman-squad levels.
On the small side for a Division III school, Baker wants to take full advantage of the luxury of a freshman team by getting his team all the experience it can, no matter the level.
It's a strategy he feels has benefited the program as a whole one the coach wasn't able to utilize his first few years as head coach.
"We've come a long way from those first couple of years," said Baker, who first took over during the 2001-2002 season. "We finally had some continuity and girls were continuing to play and that allowed the underclassmen to come in an play junior varsity and get some experience.
"If the younger kids come in and earn their spot, they will move up. But at the beginning, I hated having to throw the freshmen and sophomores in because they weren't ready to play. They had to play. It was out of necessity.
"We'd struggle, they'd get frustrated and wouldn't stick it out four years."
Baker knows he'll need experienced legs on the court to get through the Pioneer Valley Conference schedule against the likes of Caldwell, Frontier, Shenandoah, River and Fort Frye. Throw in Shadyside on the schedule and Baker knows his team will have to hit the ground running when it opens the season against River.
The good news is that game will be at home, literally, for the first time in school history.
The Seminoles' students finally have a real high school to call home with the opening of the new Monroe Central facility this fall. Included in that unveiling was the Seminoles' new basketball home. No more traveling down the road to the old Skyvue High School for home games.
"The gym looks great," Baker said. "Only time will tell if it's a shooter's gym or not but it's been a long-time coming.
"I think everyone in the community is excited about it."
One area the 'Noles will need to improve on if they wish to equal or better the success of last season is at the free-throw line.
Monroe shot 57 percent at the stripe in 2011-2012.