The Delaware Hayes High School girls basketball team is seeking its first winning season since 2008-09 when it finished 22-1.
The Pacers return two regular starters from last season in junior point guard Kristen McMillen and junior guard Julie Bauer. McMillen averaged 11.2 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals a year ago and was named honorable mention all-district and second-team all-OCC-Capital Division.
Last season, Delaware finished 10-12 overall and 7-7 in the OCC-Capital and defeated Dublin Jerome 27-24 in the first round of the Division I district tournament before losing to seventh-seeded Olentangy 70-38 in the second round.
"Those are the two girls we will look to as our leaders," seventh-year coach Erin Margraf said. "They were major contributors as freshmen and now they're being asked to lead by example. They need to become more vocal, but the other girls do look up to them."
Senior Bethany Naegele, a 5-foot-11 center who was a part-time starter last season, is sidelined with a knee injury and isn't expected to return to the lineup until late in the season, according to Margraf.
Naegele is the tallest player for the Pacers, who opened with a 51-32 loss to Olentangy Liberty on Nov. 27 and began league play Nov. 30 against Olentangy.
"Our lack of height will be a recurring issue all season long," said Margraf, whose team was outscored by Liberty 31-14 in the second and third quarters. "We also need to develop leaders who are comfortable and confident in leading the team, communicating and setting positive examples."
Sophomore Abbie Gore, a 5-9 post player, also returns after getting significant playing time last season. The other returning letterwinner is junior guard Maranda Merriman.
Rounding out the team are seniors Aislynn Blakeslee (guard), Alexis Brooks (guard), Allissa Beard (guard/forward), Kaci McCoy (guard) and Maggie Taylor (guard) and juniors Miriam Aburmaieleh (forward), Katie Ellis (guard) and Monique Martinez (guard).
McCoy missed most of last season because of an injury.
"We need to get the ball out in transition," McMillen said. "We've got to find ways to use our quickness and score. We want to have a winning season and, in order to do that, everyone has to work harder in practice and carry that over into the games."
The Pacers tied Big Walnut for fourth in the OCC-Capital last season, behind Olentangy Orange (14-0), New Albany (12-2) and Hilliard Bradley (9-5) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (4-10), Mount Vernon (3-11) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
As part of OCC realignment last summer, Bradley moved to the OCC-Cardinal and was replaced by Olentangy. Last season, the Braves went 21-3, won the OCC-Cardinal championship and were a Division I district finalist.
Delaware plays host to Worthington Kilbourne on Tuesday, Dec. 4, before returning to league play Friday, Dec. 7, at home against Watkins Memorial.
"I expect to utilize our speed and put a lot of pressure on the ball," Margraf said. "But because of low numbers and injuries, this will be tough to hold up for the entire game. We must continue to improve our conditioning and stamina. We are not tall, so everyone must box out."