Wayne Nash, second-year head coach for the Incline girls basketball team, boasted that his team is bigger, faster and stronger than last year's playoff contender.
The question, he said, is whether the girls will bring the same kind of work ethic that carried them into the regional postseason tournament last season. If so, the coach likes the Highlanders' chances.
Nash also was happy to run out of uniforms as 22 girls are out for varsity and junior varsity teams, up six from last year. Yet, there is not a single senior on the roster.
Gone are co-captains Alexa Smith and first team All-League point guard Tori O'Connor, both of whom will be difficult to replace, Nash said, adding that Maddie Findlen, last year's JV MVP, is unable to participate due to medical reasons.
Last season a crushing loss to the White Pine Bobcats in the second round of regionals ended Incline's season. And the loss still does not sit well.
"We had a 16-point lead and let them back in. We gave it away," said Nash.
With the loss, however, lessons were learned. The returning players are optimistic about their return to postseason play. This year's motto, "make it happen," will be their battle cry.
"They know in order to get back, only they can make it happen with hard work, and stepping it up to play at a high level every game," Nash said.
Returning players include second team All-League selections Kortney Solis and Kerrie Tonking, both juniors, as well as most improved junior forward Sarah Wright and junior point guard Torii Baker.
In addition, sophomore shooting guard Molly Franklin had a fantastic summer as she and Solis attended Nike's Snow Valley Basketball Camp in Santa Barbara.
"Molly is team leading in passion for the game, and it shows in her work ethic," Nash said, adding that Franklin works with a personal basketball trainer on a weekly basis in Reno. "Throw in the summer games, her natural ability, and a strong work ethic, and Molly is competing for team MVP."
New additions include freshmen Kira Porter, Briana Birazza and Mia Bibolet, who's 5-10. All bring solid games.
"The new super freshmen have given us a lot to smile about," Nash said. "Kira and Briana, with their basketball skills, could start for us immediately. They are like sophomores already."
Bibolet is new to basketball but brings size, enthusiasm and energy to the team, Nash said. Birazza will be the backup point guard to Baker, and Porter, a lefty, is a fundamentally gifted athlete who can go both ways.
"I expect big things from my freshman early on," Nash said.
Sophomore forward Anna Hartman has improved "ten fold," her coach said, and with her aggressive nature will see playing time as well.
The Highlanders also gained 5-10 newcomer Krista Conn, who transferred from North Tahoe and is "a nice fit for us," Nash said. "She brings us much-needed size and an inside presence to help Kerrie and Kira inside."
The Highlanders have their first test this coming Thursday, Nov. 29, as they travel to Hawthorne to compete in the Serpent Classic hosted by Mineral County. Incline has games scheduled with state champion Pershing County, runner-up White Pine, Lincoln, Smith Valley and Mineral County.
Incline's first home game is scheduled for Dec. 11 against Silver Stage.
"With no seniors on the team I am looking for my juniors to step it up in the leadership category," Nash said. "I need vocal floor leaders and deserving team captains."