At the end of last season, Upper Arlington High School girls basketball coach Chris Savage knew he'd have to alter his team's offensive style given the players he would be losing to graduation, but he never would have guessed that he would have to change how he coaches.

At the end of last season, Upper Arlington High School girls basketball coach Chris Savage knew he'd have to alter his team's offensive style given the players he would be losing to graduation, but he never would have guessed that he would have to change how he coaches.

In March, Savage was diagnosed with a tumor in his neck and the next month he underwent surgery to have it removed. However, the tumor had killed the nerve that controls his left vocal cord, leaving him unable to speak. In May, he underwent a second surgery to attach his left and right vocal cords together, allowing him to speak with a raspy voice.

As a result, Savage now uses a wireless microphone to project his voice as well as hand signals to communicate with his players.

"It changes almost everything," said Savage, who may undergo a third surgery to try to improve his voice. "I'm going to try to get through it this year, but I'm not sure how it is going to go."

"So far we haven't had any trouble hearing him," senior point guard Michela Paradiso said. "Obviously, having him coach basketball was secondary to having him (being) able to talk. But it's so obvious how much he loves coaching basketball. I'd hate to (see) him give that up."

UA finished 17-6 overall last season after losing to Pickerington North 63-46 in a Division I district semifinal.

The Golden Bears lost their top two outside threats to graduation in Mary Corbett, who averaged 12.1 points last season, and Sarah Hobbs, who averaged 9.5 points. Corbett, who made 46 of 90 3-pointers, was named first-team all-district and OCC-Central Division Player of the Year, while Hobbs was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.

Paradiso (5-foot-6) and senior Jackie Hobson (5-8) lead a group of guards that includes juniors Holly Holsopple (5-7) and Macauley Mikes (5-8) and sophomores Kyle Croxton (5-2), Chiara Paradiso (5-10) and Annika Wachtman (5-5).

Michela Paradiso averaged 9.0 points, 4.0 assists and 2.8 steals last season and was second-team all-league.

"This year we have athletic guards who can drive pretty well," said Savage, now in his fifth season leading the Bears. "We're trying to get more shots inside the lane than by hanging out at the 3-point line."

Seniors Olivia Menden (5-11) and Maddie Spielman (5-11) return at forward. Menden, who averaged 7.7 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds last season, was special mention all-league. Spielman, who averaged 4.8 points and 5.7 rebounds, was honorable mention all-league.

Senior Zeina Hidmi (5-9), junior Allee Overmyer (5-9) and sophomore Andi Norman (5-11) also will see time at forward. Rounding out the team is junior post player Katie Kapusta (5-10).

"We're not big by any means, but we have a lot of athletic girls who are 5-9 to 5-11 with real long arms," Savage said. "We're going to use that to our advantage on defense."

UA will be tested early, as it opens Saturday, Nov. 26, at Pickerington North, which has knocked the Bears out of the district tournament three of the past five seasons.

Among the Bears' primary goals is a third consecutive OCC-Central title. UA went 13-1 in the league last season to finish ahead of Dublin Coffman (11-3), Hilliard Davidson (10-4), Thomas Worthington (9-5), Central Crossing (5-9), Worthington Kilbourne (5-9), Hilliard Darby (3-11) and Westland (0-14).

"I'd like to think that we have the edge, but we also have that target on our back," Savage said. "Davidson might have the inside track. They've got a lot of players who are physically strong, experienced and well-coached coming back."