Speed and athleticism might be key ingredients for the Westerville North High School girls basketball team as the Warriors look to rebound from a pair of losing seasons.

Speed and athleticism might be key ingredients for the Westerville North High School girls basketball team as the Warriors look to rebound from a pair of losing seasons.

North was 7-14 overall last season after going 2-19 in 2007-08. But the addition of an all-Ohio performer should help the Warriors speed their return toward being one of the area's top Division I teams.

Caitlin Kusan, a 5-foot-10 junior post player, transferred from Worthington Christian to North after being special mention all-state in Division IV. She averaged 17.6 points, 14.7 rebounds and 4.0 blocked shots as a sophomore and has more than 550 rebounds.

"Anytime you can add a player like Caitlin, you have to be happy," said Jim Kloepfer, who enters his seventh season as coach. "We continue to build on what we've done for the past two seasons. We won seven games last year, but we were very competitive and this year is the one where we get over the hump."

The Warriors return three starters in senior guard/forward Kate Denney (5-8), junior forward Danielle Johnson (5-9) and junior guard Monique Jones (5-1). But Jones, a two-year starter at point guard, suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the preseason and will be replaced by senior Corrine Smith (5-3).

"That's a tough break because she was playing so well, but there's nothing we can do about that," said Kloepfer of Jones, who averaged 10.8 points, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals last season. "At least we have Corrine Smith, who we feel can step in admirably in that position."

Other letterwinners back are senior post player Taylor Evans (6-2) and junior guard Bri Clegg (5-7).

Newcomers include junior guard Nicole Fuller (5-7) and sophomore post player Kayla Angermeier (5-10).

"One thing is we're all fast and athletic," said Denney, whose team opens Dec. 4 with an OCC-Cardinal Division game at Olentangy. "That can really helps us on defense, and we all know that defense wins games. We can all get up and down the court together and beat our opponents down the court."

Kloepfer said his three seniors came ready to play when the preseason began.

"Kate Denney came in in the best shape of her life and has been playing better than she ever has," Kloepfer said. "She's more intense than ever and has been stepping up as a leader.

"I think Taylor Evans has improved a lot and could really surprise some people in the post, and Corrine has really developed her game to where she's able to go to the left more often."

North finished 5-9 in the league to tie Olentangy for fifth, behind Dublin Scioto (14-0), Westerville South (11-3), Dublin Jerome (9-5) and Olentangy Liberty (8-6) and ahead of Marysville (3-11) and Westerville Central (1-13).

"South and Scioto will probably be the favorites, but I look for Olentangy to surprise some people," Kloepfer said.

At a glance

•Coach: Jim Kloepfer, seventh season

•Opener: Dec. 4 at Olentangy

•Key players: Kate Denney, Danielle Johnson, Caitlyn Kusan and Corrine Smith

Schedule

*Dec. 4 at Olentangy

*Dec. 8 vs. Dublin Jerome

*Dec. 12 at Westerville Central

Dec. 15 vs. Mount Vernon

*Dec. 18 vs. Dublin Scioto

Dec. 19 at Whetstone

*Dec. 22 at Olentangy Liberty

*Jan. 6 vs. Westerville South

*Jan. 8 at Marysville

Jan. 9 vs. Dublin Coffman

*Jan. 15 vs. Olentangy

*Jan. 22 at Dublin Jerome

*Jan. 27 vs. Westerville Central

*Jan. 29 at Dublin Scioto

Jan. 30 vs. Whetstone

*Feb. 2 vs. Olentangy Liberty

*Feb. 4 at Westerville South

Feb. 9 vs. Columbus East

*Feb. 12 vs. Marysville

Feb. 13 at Duncan Falls Philo

*OCC-Cardinal game