GLEN DALE - The John Marshall girls' basketball team has qualified for the OVAC Tournament every season but one since the event's inception. Coach Mark McCormick doesn't think a second time is coming in 2013.
Coming off a rare losing season (11-12) and a loss in the first round of the sectional to University, the Monarchs have huge shoes to fill will the graduation of Kylie Howard and Kristin Lewicki, both four-year starters, as well as Morgan Watson. Howard is a student at West Virginia, Lewicki is playing hockey at Adrian College and Watson enlisted in the United States Air Force.
''Coming into this season I knew as a team we needed to put in the extra work in the offseason to get better if we wanted to qualify for the OVAC Tournament and look to get past the first round of the sectional,'' McCormick said. ''We needed to be tougher such as boxing out consistently, play good help defense and communicate defensively so there is no breakdown, and embrace the team aspect.
''I feel if we add some toughness to our team we can attain our goals.''
John Marshall has a pair of senior starters returning in Emily Winters, who averaged 9.7 points and nine rebounds, and Alyssa ''Sissy'' George, who scored 6.4 a night and added five assists.
''Alyssa gives me a great floor leader who can keep us together on offense and really came into her own last year once Lewicki went down with an injury,'' McCormick said. ''Emily gives me a post presence who can post up or shoot the 10-foot jumper and gives me a physical presence on the boards.''
Senior Hailee McClelland is looking to take on an expanded role this season, while classmate Justice Watson will also compete for time in the post.
''She has really redefined here game,'' McCormick said of McClelland. ''As a sophomore in order to garner more time, she learned to the post position and has really worked hard over the last three years.
''She gave me valuable time last year and will be depended upon to help offensively and be one of my top defenders.''
The role of the junior class will change drastically, according to the coach. Where it spent most of its time on jayvee a season ago, much is expected on the varsity level and ''the early returns have been good.''
Abbi Namath and Abby Patrick are joined by Maggie Keylor and Morgan Vucelick.
McCormick said Namath and Patrick ''have been competing every day and continue to get better with every practise,'' while Keylor and Vucelik ''are two guards that are going to have to give me depth throughout the course of games.''
The sophomore class is exceptional with the return of Bailey Filben (9.7 ppg., 5.3 rpg.) and Torie Derrow (16.9 ppg., 10.4 rpg.).
''There are not many coaches that can say they have a lot of time on the court for their sophomores, but that's the case here at John Marshall,'' McCormick said.
Filben ''can play all five positions and has done a good job of expanding here game,'' while Derrow ''can cause a variety of matchup problems whether in the post or on the wing.''
Sophomore Jami McNeil has shown growth during the summer and has improved, along with freshman Kaylee McMullen.
McCormick is assisted by Mindy Yoho, Jeff Stephens and Larry Freeland.