First-year Westerville Central High School girls basketball coach Jamiya Pride is looking forward to his latest challenge.

First-year Westerville Central High School girls basketball coach Jamiya Pride is looking forward to his latest challenge.

Pride was hired July 29, becoming the program's fifth coach since its inception in 2003. He replaced Doug Etgen, who stepped down on June 19 following three seasons with the Warhawks.

Pride coached Gilead Christian the past three seasons, compiling a 52-15 record.

"My first challenge is to get (the players') confidence built," said Pride, whose team opens Tuesday, Nov. 29, at home against Mount Vernon. "Coming into the program, I just sense a lot of people who were not confident in their ability. Watching them play, they definitely have the athletic ability to compete at a high level and be successful."

Central finished 10-12 overall last season, losing to Gahanna 44-15 in the second round of the Division I district tournament. The Warhawks defeated Briggs 56-39 in the first round.

Central went 7-7 in the OCC-Cardinal Division a year ago to tie Dublin Jerome for fourth, behind Olentangy (12-2), Dublin Scioto (10-4) and Westerville North (9-5) and ahead of Westerville South (5-9), Marysville (3-11) and Olentangy Liberty (3-11).

"We want to make sure we have a good record this year," Mills said. "We need to beat the teams we definitely need to and we want to surprise a lot of people."

Central returns senior forwards Hannah Hetterscheidt and Carly Morris, junior guard Megan Mills and junior forward Maggie Sabo, who saw limited varsity time last season.

Also on the team are senior Pam Iacabucci (guard), juniors Brooklyn Frazier (forward), Megan Gray (guard), Kasey Harris (guard), Kelsey Merriam (guard), Molly Radigan (forward/center) and Maddie Style (forward/center), sophomore Alex MacLeod (guard) and freshman Andrea Hodge (guard).

"This team has potential," Pride said. "Even though we're young, we have athletic players. With them not playing a lot of varsity, except for Megan Mills, I put a challenge out to them and said, 'This is your team. You play as much as you want, depending on how hard you play.' A lot of them have stepped up."

Among the seven players the Warhawks lost to graduation were Aly Jurcenko (second-team all-league), Abby King (special mention all-league) and Tabbytha Walker (honorable mention all-league).

Central opens league play Dec. 2 at Jerome.

"I've scrimmaged teams in the OCC," Pride said. "I know some of the coaches. It's definitely going to be more competitive for us as well. A lot of those teams have not lost a lot, (including) Jerome and Olentangy. They're going to be tough teams, along with North and South, but I don't think we should be counted out. We don't have any pressure on us. That's what the girls are happy about, and I think they're going to surprise a lot of teams."