Sarah Auker isn't taking any games she plays for the Dublin Jerome High School girls basketball team this season for granted.
Plagued by injuries for much of her athletic career, the 5-foot-11 post player plans to savor every opportunity she gets to take the court.
"As a senior, I have to step up more as a leader and all of our seniors have to make sure everyone stays focused," she said.
"We have to play every game like it's our last one. With the ankle and knee injuries that I have had, you never know what's going to happen and it might be your last game. We have to go out, keep our heads up and get as many wins as possible."
Auker averaged 7.2 points and 7.6 rebounds last season and was named honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league, as Jerome finished 11-10 overall and placed fourth in the OCC-Cardinal Division.
Auker is one of two returning starters for the Celtics, who open Friday, Nov. 30, with a league game at Westerville Central. The other is 5-11 senior post player Katherine McCoy, who averaged 4.1 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals last season.
Also on the team are senior post players Madison Colvin (5-10) and Hannah Gibbs (6-1), junior post player Madison Watson (6-0) and junior wing players Christy Chou (5-2) and Andrea Davidson (5-6). Sophomore wing players Madison Costner (5-7) and Sarah Youngs (5-7) also are expected to contribute.
Watson averaged 4.1 points and 3.3 rebounds last season.
"We have kids who are athletic, but not really skilled," first-year coach Rob Dunsmore said.
"We have to work on dribbling, passing, shooting and catching. But they are a smart group, probably having an average GPA of 3.9. They learn fast and work hard, so we'll just have to go out and compete as much as well can."
Dunsmore replaced Matt Martin during the offseason. Martin resigned after leading the program for five seasons.
"We have four seniors and four juniors on varsity," said Dunsmore, who said the program has a freshman team for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
"We don't have guards and forwards, but wing and post players. Everyone is universal in our wing and post sets and anyone is liable to be out running the point."
Kaitlin Miller, a three-year starter at guard, led Jerome in scoring last season, averaging 9.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals and earning honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league honors. She did not return for her senior season, opting to focus on soccer.
Sophomore wing player Hadley Kiefer, a starter who averaged 6.4 points and was honorable mention all-league last season, will miss the season because of a knee injury. Kaitlin Beebe, a 5-6 guard, did not return for her senior season because of concussion issues.
Last season, Jerome went 8-6 in the OCC-Cardinal to tie Westerville South, finishing behind Olentangy (13-1), Dublin Scioto (11-3) and Westerville North (9-5) and ahead of Olentangy Liberty (5-9), Marysville (2-12) and Westerville Central (0-14).
As part of OCC realignment, Liberty, Marysville and Olentangy moved out of the OCC-Cardinal and were replaced by Hilliard Bradley, Hilliard Darby and Worthington Kilbourne.
The Celtics lost to Delaware 27-24 in the opening round of the Division I district tournament last season.