The girls high school basketball season won't have the same feel to it this year.
Gone are the familiar faces of Wellsville's Mikyla Tipton, Oak Glen's Payden Eckleberry and East Liverpool's Mallory Waggle in what was one of the best senior classes in recent memory.
Tipton averaged nearly 20 points per game and became the Tigers' all-time leading scorer. Eckleberry led her team in points, assists and steals capping a stellar career with another trip to Charleston. Waggle paced a Potters' squad that started the season 9-1, while Allie Bangor highlighted a Beaver Local team that graduated its top four scores.
But change can be good.
The 2012-13 campaign should see some new names emerge as the cream of the crop.
The Potters have welcomed back one of their own in Allan Dingey who will begin his first season with the girls basketball program.
Dingey, a 1972 East Liverpool graduate, has spent the past 20 years coaching youth basketball and serving as an assistant with the Wellsville basketball program.
Now, Dingey will look to revitalize the Lady Potters basketball team.
"One of my focuses will be on the lower levels," Dingey said. "You've got to have a good program all the way up. I want to get the numbers up and get this program going."
Last season was the tale of two halves for the Potters.
East Liverpool, under the direction of coach Emily Reed, started the season 9-1 only to drop six of its final 10 games including a sectional opening loss to Carrollton, 82-42.
That team was dominated by three seniors in Mallory Waggle (14.7 ppg), Whittni Davidson (13.3) and Kelsie Wymer (8.0).
"We're going to be a work in progress," Dingey said. "We're still trying to determine what our strengths will be. We definitely lack some varsity experience."
Six-foot senior Candace Holmes (5.4) will likely play a big role if the Potters are to find success.
Much of the scoring load will fall upon standout sophomore Nikayla Edgell. She showed signs of being a dynamic player in her first high school season and put up 29 points in the Potters season opener against Lisbon last week.
"She has a great attitude and puts in the time playing year round," Dingey said of Edgell.
Holmes and Edgell will likely be joined by seniors Sarah Morrell and Mary Davis and junior Chelsea Possage in the starting lineup. Also seeing major playing time will be senior Jamie Neville and juniors Kiara Cowart and Rae Ana Holmes.
"There's no easy games on our schedule," Dingey said. "We want to improve every game and settle on a rotation. I expect to see a lot of hustle and teamwork."
Beaver Local coach J.R. Walker has his work cut out for him.
Entering his second season with the Beavers, Walker will have to replace nearly all of his team's scoring from last year. Gone are Beaver Local's top four scorers in Allie Bangor (13.0), Tenelle Hoppel (10.8), Kenzie Weber (6.0) and Taylor Pike (4.3). Also gone is Cheyenne Marsden and Sam Cook.
"We're just praying somebody steps up," Walker said. "We're going to have to play as a team. We need to be patient on offense and work the ball around. We don't have that big scorer so we're going to have to play team basketball."
The Beavers return only one player who averaged more than three points a contest in junior Danna Talbott (3.7). Talbott will be joined in the starting lineup by seniors Mattie Anderson, Sam Bishop and Allison Kennedy and junior Maranda Kiddey.
Also in the mix will be Courtney Ricciardi, Ravenna Cianni, Tanner Dolhoun and Jade Savre.
"We don't want to hear the word 'rebuild,' but we know we're young," Walker said. "As coaches, we're going to have to be patient with them. We're hoping to crawl then walk and hopefully be running by the end of the year."
While Walker said he admits the Beavers will likely experience some growing pains this season, he's by no means ready to throw in the towel.
"I want us to play team basketball and improve as the season goes along," he said. "I've got girls who are willing to learn. I expect a good season. I don't ever go in saying that we're going to struggle."
Where have you gone Mikyla Tipton?
That question is easy to answer as Tipton has taken her skills to Bethany College where she is already seeing major minutes as a freshman. The harder question is how the Tigers plan on replacing the school's all-time leading scorer.
"It's definitely a big hole to fill," Wellsville coach Ed Swogger said. "She scored 20 points a game for us and anytime you lose that type of production from one player, it's tough.
"We're going to have to be more of a team. We just don't have another 20-point scorer to thrown in there. But, we do have a few eight to 10 point girls. We're going to have to spread out the scoring."
Tipton wasn't the only loss the Tigers suffered. Also gone is Rilee Livolsi (5.6) and Irene Kiser (5.2).
Wellsville will likely rely heavily upon junior Shartece Taylor (8.7).
"You can definitely count on her speed," Swogger said of the track standout. "She's stepped up as a leader and she's going to be one of our cornerstones for the next couple years. She's not a Tipton type scorer, but she can have a big impact."
The Tigers will welcome back senior Monica Wilson who played in just two games last season before having ACL surgery.
Swogger said he also expects sophomore Amanda Coles to be a key contributor.
"She'll play in the post for us and she plays bigger than her 5-foot-3 height," he said. "She likes playing down low and has been a real sparkplug for us in the past."
Joining Taylor, Wilson and Coles in the starting lineup will be junior Brittany Clendenning (4.7). The final spot will be filled by either Kallee Powell or Sabrina Thompson.
"Lack of varsity experience will probably be our biggest weakness," Swogger said. "But these girls have a great attitude and are working hard. They haven't had a winning season since 2000. That's been on a lot of the girls' goal sheets. We want a winning record."
For the Oak Glen girls basketball program, anything less than a trip to Charleston seems like a disappointment nowadays.
The Bears have advanced to the state tournament in two of the past three seasons including last year when Oak Glen defeated Magnolia, Tyler Consolidated and Point Pleasant en route to Charleston.
"I think that high standard that has been set here is a great thing because it means we're doing well," Oak Glen coach Scott Wiley said. "The last few classes have set the bar high. Getting back to Charleston is my goal for the girls, and it's there goal as well."
The road back to the state tournament will be a little more difficult this season, however. Oak Glen will have to contend with Fairmont East, Fairmont Senior and North Marion - three teams moving down from Class AAA - as well as Hancock County rival Weir in their section.
Adding to the Bears uphill climb will be dealing with the loss of all-state honoree Payden Eckleberry who is playing basketball on a scholarship from Fairmont State University.
"She did pretty much everything for us," Wiley said of Eckleberry. "She put everyone in the right place. She led the team in points, assists and steals. It's going to be a tough transistion. We've got to have some girls step up.
"You just don't replace a Payden. People keep asking who's going to bring the ball up the court. My answer is whoever gets the rebound."
Junior Tori Feicht will take over at the point guard position, but Wiley said no one is asking her to step into Eckleberry's shoes.
Eckleberry (17.9 ppg) and Amy Webster (7.5) are gone to graduation, while Alex Burch (4.6) did not come out for the team. Despite the heavy losses, Oak Glen has reason to be optimistic with the return of junior Vanessa Hissam.
Hissam averaged 12.6 points a game last season and is expected to have a breakout year.
"She means everything to us," Wiley said of Hissam. "She's really became a nice player with her scoring and rebounding. I always say her timing and hands are her best assets. She's not the tallest player, but she knows how to play. She's been playing under Payden and Kiley (King) and now we're looking to her for some extra leadership."
Hissam will be joined in the starting lineup by the team's only senior, Casey Patterson, as well as Feicht, junior Karly Wiley and sophomore Jessica Stivason.
"Some people think we're going to be down because we lost some players," Wiley said. "I think this group has a little chip on their shoulders. I think we could surprise some people."
The Indians are looking to get over the hump.
Southern Local struggled to the tune of 5-16 last season including a sectional opening loss to Western Reserve, 45-25.
This year however, the Indians believe they are poised to turn their program into a winner.
"We had some injuries last year that were major obstacles for us to overcome," Southern Local coach Cory Leek said of losing Maddy Dowling for half of the season. "She was one of our big leaders and it took some time to find others to step up."
Now, Dowling (7.3 ppg) is gone to graduation, but her early departure last season allowed others to gain valuable on-court experience.
While the Indians also lost Jennah Phillis (7.9) to graduation, a wealth of talent and experience returns to the lineup.
Back are seniors Rachel Coil (9.8) and Kati Hipsley (8.6) to lead the way.
"We haven't really talked about team goals yet, but we want to have a winning season," Leek said. "That hasn't happened here in a long time. I think the last time was 1989. That's on the girls' minds. If we do that, then you never know where you will fall in the league."
Joining Coil and Hipsley in the starting lineup is junior Beckah Phillis (3.8) who started 10 games last season.
Sophomore Brittany Weber will also get a starting nod, while senior Lisa Higgins and sophomore Sarah Phillis will also see major playing time.
"I think we're going to be able to control the boards," Leek said. "If we can play good defense we should be able to hold teams to one shot. I'd say a mixture of rebounding and leadership from our seniors will be our strengths."
Seniors Emily Jenkins and Susan Bratt will be major contributors off the bench, but Leek said he is somewhat worried about the team's lack of depth.
"Last year we had a good rotation of eight deep," he said. "We're looking at who's going to fill those roles. We have the numbers with 18 girls overall, but 12 are underclassmen. We're going to have to probably play plenty of sophomores and freshmen.