WHEELING - There's good news and bad news for the Wheeling Jesuit women's basketball program.
''I think we're better than we were last year,'' said second-year coach Debbie Buff, ''but I also think the conference is better than it was last year.''
A move to the Mountain East has changed the scenery, and a bit of the competition, but still, the story of these Cardinals is likely going to be to told from within.
Wheeling Jesuit was picked 10th in the MEC by the coaches on Media Day, but Buff's never been one for preseason polls, good or bad.
''It's only my second recruiting class,'' she said of a four-player bumper crop of newcomers. ''We're playing mostly freshmen and sophomores. In your second recruiting class, you're trying to put the pieces together.''
The Cardinals have tri-captains in junior Emily Robinson and seniors Alex Anderson and Taneka Lewis, some familiar names who have accepted leadership roles in a big way.
''We have take it one game at a time,'' Buff said.
''We know that it's going to be a battle in every game we play.
"Our attitude is very good, our leadership is good, our chemistry is better as far as sharing the ball and making that extra pass.''
Buff said this two games into the season in which the Cardinals split, beating Slippery Rock to start the season before suffering a setback to Tiffin.
''We can't take days off. It's a long season,'' she said.
''We're putting it out to our leaders to reiterate that.
"We have to get better every day.'
''It's a very eager group of student athletes.''
Taking a look at those leaders, Robinson, a 5-foot-6 guard, averaged 7.7 points and 2.4 assists last season and dropped in 13 points in the opener against Slippery Rock.
Anderson was a starter for a majority of last season, averaging five points and six rebounds.
Lewis, who scored a combined 28 points in the club's first two games, averaged nine points and 3.4 assists, and 3.7 rebounds a season ago.
Breanna Butler, a member of the WVC's last All-Freshman Team, is also back after averaging 12 points and three rebounds. She had 18 points in the opener and 16 in the second game of 2013-14.
The fifth starter has been freshman Kylie Frizell, a 5-10 guard out of Smithville, Ohio.
''She's been doing a lot of great things,'' Buff said of Frizell.
''She can shoot the ball. She adds a lot of length on defense.''
Jaana Motton, a Bishop Hartley product who played 12 minutes in the club's second game, Chelsea Richardson and Lydia Hyburg round out the recruiting class.
Hyburg, a 6-2 forward adds depth and length to the post, while Richardson adds depth and explosiveness to the guard position.
''Once our freshmen learn the system, they'll just get better,'' Buff said.
Also back for the Cardinals is sophomore Jaila Bryant, who averaged 8.4 points and 17 minutes per game last season.
Kelsey Pacholke, a senior, averaged 16 minutes, 5.3 points, and 3.4 rebounds a year ago. Sophomore Taylor Lubinsky played quite a bit her rookie season. Another sophomore, Rachael Smetzler, is also back.
New to the Cardinals coaching staff is Jerod Alltop, who is Buff's top assistant.
Dec. 5: at Urbana5:30 p.m.
Dec. 7: at Notre Dame2 p.m.
Dec. 14: Clarion6 p.m.
Dec. 17: at Le Moyne College7 p.m.
Jan. 5: UVA Wise1 p.m.
Jan. 6: Concord4 p.m.
Jan. 9: at Fairmont State5:30 p.m.
Jan. 11: at Glenville St. 2 p.m.
Jan. 13: W.Va. Wesleyan5:30 p.m.
Jan. 18: Shepherd2 p.m.
Jan. 23: West Liberty5:30 p.m.
Janl. 25: Notre Dame2 p.m.
Jan. 30: Urbana5:30 p.m.
Feb. 1: W.Va. State2 p.m.
Feb. 3: at Univ. of Charleston5:30 p.m.
Feb. 6: at UVA Wise5:30 p.m.
Feb. 8: at Concord1 p.m.
Feb. 13: Fairmont State5:30 p.m.
Feb. 15: at Shepherd2 p.m.
Feb. 20: Glenville St. 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 22: at W.Va. Wesleyan2 p.m.
March 1: at West Liberty2 p.m.