Sarah Hobbs of the Upper Arlington High School girls basketball team watched in amazement last season as her teammate, 2010 graduate Ashley Stuart, broke the opponents' full-court press.

Sarah Hobbs of the Upper Arlington High School girls basketball team watched in amazement last season as her teammate, 2010 graduate Ashley Stuart, broke the opponents' full-court press.

This season, Hobbs and her teammates will have to take a much more active role in getting the ball up the floor if the Golden Bears are to improve on last season. They finished 20-2 overall and lost 43-42 in a Division I district semifinal to eventual state semifinalist Reynoldsburg.

"It's going to be a lot different this year than it was last year," said Hobbs, a senior guard. "Last year, Ashley could dribble through traps anytime a team tried to pressure us. This year, we're definitely going to be distributing the ball more."

Stuart, a guard who averaged 7.1 points, 3.6 assists and 3.5 steals a game and was first-team all-OCC-Central Division, and post player Jane Windler, who averaged 10.7 points and 9.3 rebounds, were among the four players UA lost to graduation. Windler, who is second on the Bears' all-time rebound list with 653, was named OCC-Central Player of the Year as well as second-team all-district.

To compensate for the loss of the graduated players, fourth-year coach Chris Savage is relying on his team's speed. UA returns an experienced backcourt with Hobbs (5-foot-7), senior guard Mary Corbett (5-7) and junior guard Michela Paradiso (5-6).

Last season, Hobbs (10.5 points, 2.0 assists, 2.5 steals) and Corbett (8.8 points, 2.1 assists) were honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league. Paradiso (6.3 points, 2.2 assists, 1.9 steals) saw a lot of minutes in a backup role.

Also on the team are senior Ali Gerlach (5-8, guard), and juniors Zeina Hidmi (5-9, guard), Jackie Hobson (5-8, guard), Kaelyn McNeil (5-9, post player), Olivia Menden (5-9, post player) and Maddie Spielman (5-11, post player).

"The difference is going to be like night and day," Savage said. "Last year, we were a better team when we were running a half-court offense. This year, we're very quick. Even our posts are quick. We want to force the tempo a little bit."

"The coaches have been making us do more running than we've ever done before," Hobbs said. "We're in a lot better shape than we've been in the past."

One of the Bears' top goals is to repeat as the OCC-Central champion. UA won the league outright last season with a 13-1 record, finishing ahead of Dublin Coffman (10-4), Hilliard Davidson (10-4), Thomas Worthington (8-6), Hilliard Darby (8-6), Central Crossing (5-9), Worthington Kilbourne (2-12) and Westland (0-14).

The OCC title was UA's first since the 2003-04 season and ended the Shamrocks' reign as league champion. Coffman went 88-9 and won four OCC titles over the previous four seasons. The Bears swept the Shamrocks last season, winning 47-43 and 54-38.

UA starts the season with five consecutive league games, including road contests against Thomas (Dec. 7) and Coffman (Dec. 14). The Cardinals were the only team to beat the Bears during the regular season, upsetting UA, ranked No. 2 in the state poll at the time, 45-42.

"There are multiple teams in our division who could win it, like Coffman, Central Crossing, Thomas, Davidson and Darby, but I really feel we're the team to beat," Savage said. "The girls have embraced that and we've worked really hard to get ready for this season."