Confidence is a trait not typically associated with the Columbus Academy girls basketball team.

Confidence is a trait not typically associated with the Columbus Academy girls basketball team.

Yet, the Vikings, who finished 9-13 overall last season, are confident entering their opener Tuesday at home against Berne Union.

"We're more confident than we were last year coming in because we're not scared to play all these other teams," senior forward Molly Belcher said. "We know we have some ability."

Academy was a combined 9-53 in three seasons from 2005-08, but defeated Fairfield Christian 47-42 in the first round of the Division IV district tournament. The Vikings lost to sixth-seeded Ridgedale 41-29 in the second round.

In the MSL-Ohio Division, Academy finished sixth at 3-11, behind co-champions Granville and Newark Catholic at 12-2.

"The girls created something special," said coach Mike Belcher, Molly's father. "It was a good season for us, but it's another season so let's build on that. We have five starters back and I shouldn't have to generate excitement for them. They should be excited coming in."

Molly Belcher is one of those five returning starters. The other four are senior Sarah Burley (forward), junior Allie Roehrenbeck (forward) and sophomores LaShaun Ransom (guard) and Erin Simmons (point guard).

Also returning are seniors Audrey Dipman (forward) and Alex Rife (guard/forward). Freshman Dina Sinno (guard) also is on the team.

"We've got depth this year," coach Belcher said. "It's going to be tough to figure out who the starting five is going to be. It's a good problem to have."

Dipman and Roehrenbeck return to the Vikings' frontcourt after missing time last season because of injuries. Academy graduated post players Kelsi Ratcliff and Audrey Young.

"We're a more guard-heavy team this year than last year," coach Belcher said. "We lost a little size with Ratcliff and Young, but what we gain is quickness and better basketball skills."

Simmons emerged as Academy's go-to scorer during her freshman year. She scored in double figures in 10 of the Vikings' 22 games, including a season-high 22 in a 51-40 win over Gahanna Christian.

"At the beginning of the season I was really nervous," Simmons said. "I realized there's nothing to be nervous about."

In the postseason, Simmons averaged 17.5 points.

"I'd like to get her out playing point guard a little bit for us this year," coach Belcher said. "I'd like to let her run at the two guard a little bit to free her up to shoot."

Simmons and Belcher were second-team all-league. They both averaged around 10 points per game.

Coach Belcher is hoping to have three or four players consistently average 10 points, helping the Vikings compete on a more consistent basis and in close games. Last season, the Vikings had four losses by a combined 12 points.

"We have to cut down on our turnovers even more," Belcher said. "We did a lot last year, but we still had some."

"That was our goal, to cut down on turnovers," coach Belcher said. "We had a million the year before.

"This year we need to get a more balanced attack, too. If we can do those things, we can start competing with the Newark Catholics, Granvilles and Licking Valleys."

At a glance

•Coach: Mike Belcher, second season

•Opener: Tuesday vs. Berne Union

•Key players: Molly Belcher and Erin Simmons


Dec. 1 vs. Berne Union

*Dec. 3 at Granville

*Dec. 5 vs. Newark Catholic

*Dec. 8 at Heath

*Dec. 11 vs. Whitehall

*Dec. 19 at Licking Valley

*Jan. 5 vs. Lakewood

Jan. 7 vs. Wellington

*Jan. 9 at Bexley

Jan. 12 at Gilead Christian

*Jan. 15 at Newark Catholic

*Jan. 19 vs. Heath

Jan. 21 at Gahanna Christian

*Jan. 23 at Whitehall

Jan. 27 at Wellington

*Jan. 29 vs. Granville

*Feb. 2 vs. Licking Valley

*Feb. 3 at Lakewood

*Feb. 12 vs. Bexley

*MSL-Ohio game