After winning a third consecutive league championship and making it to a second consecutive district final, the Olentangy High School girls basketball team returns seven seniors and has six players who are at least 6 feet tall.
But the Braves know that means little to their new rivals in the OCC-Capital Division.
Olentangy, which moved from the OCC-Cardinal, opened Nov. 24 with a 37-36 win over Toledo Notre Dame Academy in the Gary West Tipoff Classic at Reynoldsburg.
"We wanted to have a tough preseason scrimmage schedule so that we can play in a new league," 10th-year coach John Feasel said. "There's a really good (Olentangy) Orange team (in the OCC-Capital). New Albany has two Division I (college) signees, and we've had one in the 45-year existence of the high school. We have to be ready to play. We're not the favorite, that's for sure. People will probably pick us third, which doesn't sit well with my seniors. There's no street cred -- you've got to earn it."
The Braves have two players who signed letters of intent to play for smaller college programs in seniors Lydia Hyburg (Wheeling Jesuit) and Brooke Zwayer (Malone), but Zwayer isn't expected to play until January because of a knee injury.
Zwayer (5-10, forward) averaged 11.3 points last season. She was third-team all-district and first-team all-league.
Hyburg (6-2, post player) averaged 8.6 points and 4.7 rebounds and made second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district a year ago.
Senior Megan Beidelman (6-0, forward) averaged 10.2 points and 8.0 rebounds to make first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
The other seniors are Courtney Hale (5-6, guard), Emma Hardesty (6-0, guard/forward), Katie Heath (5-11, forward) and Gina Miccinilli (5-7, guard).
Sophomore Morgan Horvath (5-9) likely will start at point guard and freshman Kelly Meade (5-9) will see action at guard and forward.
Also looking to contribute are juniors Hailey Ballmer (6-1, post player), Emma Huffman (6-0, post player) and Rachel Hyburg (5-7, forward) and sophomore Rachel Womeldorf (6-1, post player).
"We have a lot of tall girls that can play basketball, which is good," Feasel said. "We have a good core of eight without Brooke, and when she comes back we'll have nine that have some basketball experience. Our seniors have won the league all three years they've been in high school, so they've been in some battles and they understand what it takes to win."
Last season, Olentangy went 21-3 overall and 13-1 in the OCC-Cardinal to finish ahead of Dublin Scioto (11-3), Westerville North (9-5), Westerville South (8-6), Dublin Jerome (8-6), Olentangy Liberty (5-9), Marysville (2-12) and Westerville Central (0-14).
The Braves have joined an OCC-Capital that was won by Orange (14-0) with New Albany (12-2) placing second. Also in the league are Big Walnut, Delaware, Franklin Heights, Mount Vernon and Watkins Memorial.
Olentangy replaced Hilliard Bradley, which now is in the OCC-Cardinal.
The Braves were the seventh seed for last year's Division I district tournament and beat Westland (52-42), Delaware (70-38) and Bradley (51-47) to reach a district final. Top-seeded and eventual state semifinalist Reynoldsburg defeated Olentangy 56-31 for a district title.
"Our goal every year is to win the OCC and it's going to be a different schedule because of our change in leagues," Beidelman said. "We have a lot of good teams on our schedule and we have a lot of things to work on. We're working really hard.
"(Zwayer) is a very physical, really good guard and losing her is hard, especially for the seniors who have played with her for four years, but we have to adjust. I think we'll be fine."