Even after an encouraging finish, coach Patrick Finn of the New Albany High School softball team couldn't help but feel a little disappointed immediately after last season ended.

Even after an encouraging finish, coach Patrick Finn of the New Albany High School softball team couldn't help but feel a little disappointed immediately after last season ended.

Weeks later, though, Finn found himself viewing a season in which the Eagles finished 7-19 after losing to DeSales 7-0 in the second round of the Division II district tournament in a different light.

"When I started to reflect a little bit after the season about where we were, as optimistic as I was (before the season), we really only had about two or three girls that were in their varsity position from the year before," said Finn, whose team will open Tuesday at home with a rematch against DeSales. "We were actually pretty young last year and inexperienced, and now we've got a lot coming back."

With this coaching staff in its third season and two-thirds of last year's starting lineup back, Finn expects the Eagles could break through and accomplish some things such as winning a league title and reaching at least a district semifinal. Last season's team finished fifth in the OCC-Capital Division at 3-7 behind Big Walnut (9-1), Watkins Memorial (7-3), Olentangy Liberty (6-4) and Dublin Scioto (5-5) and ahead of Franklin Heights (0-10).

Because of this team's experience -- and some favorable weather -- the Eagles have progressed much more quickly in the preseason than they did last spring. They didn't ignore basic skill development, but they were able to move on to more advanced drills quickly.

"In preseason discussions, we've always talked about what we want to work on," senior Gabby Wood said. "I know a few girls mentioned that fundamentals were a key thing we wanted to work on because we could see that some girls were lacking in that area. So we just hit it hard, and it was pretty easy to get through it this year."

Wood is in her fourth year as a starter and will be starting at shortstop for a second season after playing catcher her first two seasons. Senior Alyson Mott is in her third season starting in right field, and senior Haley Tome is in her second year starting at second base. Mott led the team in batting last season at .349 with 16 runs and 15 stolen bases.

Junior Emily Krebs returns for a second season starting in left field, and junior Jen Graves will take over in center field. Graves saw action in center as well as designated hitter last season.

Sophomore Tiffani Goodrich will start at catcher for a second season. She was third on the team in hitting last season at .273.

Sophomore Paige Giroux is the projected starter at pitcher, with Wood likely to see some action in relief. Giroux started on the junior varsity last season.

Sophomore Jenna Greenberg is competing with junior Hannah McClain for the starting third base spot. McClain could also see action at first base, along with junior Brittany Bradbury. Sophomores Lindsey Medich and Elizabeth Aurand will contribute at a variety of positions.

Finn said the key this season, like in his first two seasons, will be psychological more than physical.

"It's being mentally tough," Finn said. "We've got to get over that hump of being down a run or two and being able to come back. That's something I think we started to learn a little bit last year."

At a glance

•Coach: Patrick Finn, third season

•Opener: Tuesday vs. DeSales

•Key players: Tiffani Goodrich, Alyson Mott, Haley Tome and Gabby Wood