Upper Arlington High School girls basketball coach Chris Savage may have been more apprehensive in previous seasons about tweaking his offense and deviating from the Golden Bears' traditional man-to-man defense.
But with experience returning across the court -- including a player who almost certainly will become the program's all-time leading scorer in 5-foot-10 senior guard Macy Spielman -- and no player taller than 5-11, Savage has as much trust in this team as any in his 12 seasons leading the program.
"In Colleen (Moore), Sarah (Poling) and Macy, we have girls who have played upward of 70 varsity basketball games each," Savage said. "Having that experience back helps us accelerate our packages offensively and accelerate our defense so we're not building as slowly as we might have in past years. We have some new defenses we'll try out. We're able to do that because of the experience level we have and the complete trust I have with them. You don't always have that, but I do with them. They know everything I want and they are great leaders."
UA also returns two anchors inside in 5-10 junior forwards Erisa Pippins and Adrienne Wachtman from last year's team that went 20-6 overall and 8-2 in the OCC-Central Division, losing to Newark 48-28 in a Division I district final.
Wachtman also plays guard, but her versatility reflects that of the team as a whole. Poling, a 5-9 senior forward, and Spielman, who is predominantly a point guard, will see time at other positions and could have plays designated for them in the paint.
"It just goes back to paying attention to every position and knowing how to play inside and outside," Spielman said. "We're all more outside players. Maybe one person is a true inside player, but we're guard-heavy and shooting-oriented. It helps all of us knowing where we're supposed to go and knowing our roles."
Moore, a 5-11 senior, began the season at shooting guard for UA, which opened Nov. 26 with a 51-39 home win over DeSales.
"We'll be four-out, one-in mostly. We really focus on getting up and down the floor quickly, getting into transition and shooting 3-pointers," Poling said. "One way I've had to push myself is with ball-handling. That's a role I will have to step into this year. I've always played (forward) so this year will be a little bit outside my comfort zone, but I have been pushing myself."
Spielman, who signed with Bowling Green on Nov. 14, scored a game-high 23 points against DeSales and had 1,110 career points before a Nov. 28 game against Newark, 19 away from the record of 1,129 shared by 2004 graduate Michele DeVault and 2016 graduate Kortney Eisenman.
Spielman averaged 17.4 points last season and was named first-team all-league and all-district and third-team all-state. She originally had committed to Miami University but reopened her recruitment May 1 and committed to Bowling Green 30 days later.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Ally Buehrle (5-8, forward), Jenna Poling (5-6, guard) and Madison Pritchett (5-10, forward), juniors Carly Casto (5-10, forward), Alex Criss (5-9, forward), Valerie Feller (5-6, guard), Emily Hummer (5-6, guard), Evelyn Kretzer (5-9, guard), Riley Kuehn (5-7, forward) and Sydney Lape (5-6, guard) and sophomore Annie Hargraves (5-6, guard).
"We're not tall, but we're long," Savage said. "We're going to try to force the issue defensively more than we have in past years."
UA begins OCC-Central play Tuesday, Dec. 4, at home against Dublin Coffman. The Bears finished second in the league last year behind the Shamrocks (10-0), who won their third consecutive championship.
Nov. 26 -- vs. DeSales
Nov. 28 -- vs. Newark
Dec. 1 -- at Northland
*Dec. 4 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
*Dec. 7 -- at Central Crossing
Dec. 10 -- at Watterson
*Dec. 14 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*Dec. 21 -- at Westland
Dec. 22 -- vs. Teays Valley
Dec. 29 -- vs. Ringwood (Australia) Secondary College
Jan. 2 -- at Gahanna
*Jan. 4 -- vs. Marysville
Jan. 8 -- at Olentangy
*Jan. 11 -- at Dublin Coffman
Jan. 15 -- at Hilliard Bradley
*Jan. 18 -- vs. Central Crossing
Jan. 22 -- vs. Westerville North
*Jan. 25 -- at Hilliard Davidson
Jan. 29 -- vs. Westerville Central
*Feb. 1 -- vs. Westland
Feb. 5 -- at Westerville South
*Feb. 8 -- at Marysville