With five players back, including one who missed most of last season with an injury, Grove City Christian School girls basketball coach Elizabeth Morris is confident her team can improve on its 7-14 record from a year ago.
"I am so eager to get started," said Morris, who is in her second season as head coach and fifth in the program. "The things that I'm seeing this year, even in the scrimmages, it gets me so excited for what I think we can do this season."
The Eagles opened Nov. 27 against Columbus Academy. They begin MOCAL play Dec. 11 at home against Tree of Life.
Last season, the Eagles lost to Tree of Life 60-43 in the first round of the Division IV district tournament. Grove City Christian trailed 20-0 after one quarter.
A key returning player is 5-foot-4 sophomore point guard Lisa Zeller, who averaged 12.8 points last season and was honorable mention all-league.
"I feel like we're better. We know coach Morris more and we're clicking really good this year," Zeller said. "Practices are going OK, but we're ready for our games."
Also back are seniors Cassi Hoyt (5-4, forward) and Rachael Riley (5-5, guard) and 5-3 sophomore guard Baily Graves.
Morris hopes the return of 5-10 sophomore center Grace Tomlinson, who missed most of last season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury in her right knee, provides a needed boost inside.
"Grace will start at center and hopefully she will have a good season," Morris said. "She is looking really good right now and obviously that takes a lot of pressure off the floor. With having her in the middle, it takes a lot of the attention from the defense and it leaves the guards open more."
Other players are freshmen Morgan Fouts (5-9, forward), Jessica Jablonski (5-7, guard) and Olivia Nester (5-3, guard).
The Eagles lost 2012 graduates Shelby Mayeran and Kathryn Juarez. Mayeran led the team in points (14.1) and rebounding (5.4) per game and was first-team all-league last season.
Morris called Juarez, who was honorable mention all-league, a defensive specialist.
"Shelby is our biggest offensive loss and Kathryn was our big defensive loss, so it's kind of a balance of the floor, but I have a couple girls that I think are going to fill those spots pretty well," Morris said. "Cassi Hoyt can play defense just as well as Kathryn did and Lisa Zeller is definitely going to try to fill Shelby's shoes."
In the league, Grove City Christian finished fifth (4-8) behind Tree of Life (12-0), Fairfield Christian (9-3), Gahanna Christian (7-5) and Delaware Christian (6-6) and ahead of Granville Christian (3-9) and Madison Christian (1-11).
Morris expects Tree of Life to be the team to beat, with Gahanna Christian also a contender.
The Eagles' league wins last year came against Madison Christian (65-55 and 54-41), Gahanna Christian (54-46) and Granville Christian (48-43).
"Our main goal for the whole team is just to get past the first round of the (district) tournament," Zeller said. "We have to really focus on our game and we have to focus during practice, and we all have to listen to coach and do what she says."