As one of the captains of an inexperienced Dublin Scioto High School girls basketball team, Kelly Flood can relate to the significance of her role.

As one of the captains of an inexperienced Dublin Scioto High School girls basketball team, Kelly Flood can relate to the significance of her role.

"It's more important than I really imagined," said the 5-foot-7 senior forward, whose team opens Friday at Watterson. "I can remember being a freshman and how new it all was to us.

"You just want to make the younger players feel like they can play at this level and get that team chemistry."

That's the challenge for the Irish who must replace five senior starters who led the team to a 15-6 record last season following a 44-39 loss to Pickerington Central in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

Those seniors left Scioto with a four-year record of 75-11 and four consecutive OCC championships.

Coach Todd Hardesty also left the program after eight seasons to devote more time to his family. He won a Division I district championship and had a 2007 regional final appearance when his team finished No. 1 in the state poll.

First-year coach Matt Fisher, 36, inherits a team that includes eight sophomores. But he does not buy the notion that this will be a down year. The preseason has given him plenty of optimism.

"I think we've already surprised people in scrimmages," said Fisher, who has 15 years of coaching experience.

"I've been most impressed by our intensity, and I think our guards really have their basketball IQ down."

Fisher, a graduate of Caledonia River Valley, likes to keep opponents guessing with a number of looks on offense and defense. Hardesty's teams thrived on defense and Fisher intends to keep that tradition.

"We play a lot of zone and we want to slow the game down," Flood said. "We don't want teams to get those easy layups. We don't have a lot of height, but we have quick guards and we can get steals."

Among those guards are sophomore Anna Buhigas (5-7) and junior Sarah Leach (5-6), who are co-captains.

In addition to Buhigas, Flood and Leach, expected starters include sophomore Katie Kollins (5-10), whom Fisher describes as a versatile and physical player, and junior post player Emily Jones (6-0), who is returning following an ACL injury.

Fisher anticipates a competitive OCC-Cardinal Division and said he thinks Olentangy and Olentangy Liberty are the teams to beat.

Last season, Scioto and Olentangy shared the league championship at 11-3.

Westerville South was third at 10-4, followed by Westerville North (9-5), Marysville (6-8), Dublin Jerome (4-10), Westerville Central (3-11) and Liberty (2-12).