New league opponents, new faces on the team and a new coach have made this preseason all the more important for the Hilliard Darby High School girls basketball team.
First-year coach Jodi Korbas inherited a program with only three players with significant varsity experience. The Panthers open Friday, Nov. 30, in an OCC-Cardinal Division game at Hilliard Bradley.
"(The players) are learning different terminology and sets and we need to continue to work to improve on those," Korbas said. "Every coach uses different verbiage, on defense especially, and (mine) is different than what they are used to. We just want to utilize the kids' strengths on the court."
Korbas, who played at Ohio State from 1984-87, coached Shelby the past 10 seasons. She went 145-75 with the Whippets, leading them to four Northern Ohio League titles. Last season, Shelby finished 21-2, losing to Clyde 80-63 in a Division II district final.
Darby finished 8-14 overall last season and went 4-10 in the OCC-Central to place sixth, behind Dublin Coffman (13-1), Upper Arlington (12-2), Central Crossing (11-3), Hilliard Davidson (7-7) and Thomas Worthington (6-8) and ahead of Westland (2-12) and Worthington Kilbourne (1-13).
The Panthers opened the Division I district tournament last season with a 43-39 win over Dublin Scioto before losing to ninth-seeded Watterson 51-33 in the second round.
As part of OCC realignment last summer, Darby moved to the OCC-Cardinal with Bradley, Scioto, Dublin Jerome, Westerville Central, Westerville North, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne.
"I got my first taste (of OCC basketball) this summer, and it's pretty solid from top to bottom," Korbas said. "You know you will have a fight on your hands every night."
The Panthers return seniors Kate Esposito (5-foot-5, guard), Emily Krumpe (5-10, post player) and Sydney Palsgrove (5-5, guard).
"Emily, Kate and Sydney bring a lot of experience to the floor," Korbas said. "I couldn't ask for a better group of seniors to start out here with."
Last season, Krumpe, a three-year starter, averaged a team-high 10.5 points and 8.1 rebounds. Esposito averaged 4.4 points and made 19 3-pointers and Palsgrove averaged 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds.
"Being a senior is a big responsibility, especially since we have a young team," said Krumpe, who was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league last season. "You have to set a good example for our class and the classes to come after us. I like being in a leadership position."
Rounding out the roster are juniors Erika Boyd (5-10, guard) and Caitlin Snyder (5-10, forward), sophomores Nycole Carter (5-6, guard), Grace Hambrock (5-8, post player) and Bekah Sislowski (5-6, guard) and freshmen Carlee Murry (5-5, guard) and Sam Sech (5-6, guard).
"If everyone does a little, then no one has to do a lot," Korbas said. "Everyone has to do their role and, if they do, things will work out well for us."