STEUBENVILLE-The Steubenville Catholic girls' basketball team took its lumps during Tom Winland's first season, finishing with a 4-17 mark.
With five letterwinners returning and the opportunity to better learn his system, Winland thinks his Crusaders will be turning the corner.
"It's nice to come in and have the girls know the system," Winland said. "They don't have to think before they act. Our movement is so much better.
"They are getting smarter and the work ethic definitely is there. They are working so hard and we definitely took a big step forward."
Post players Rachel Irvin and Rachel Rigaud lead the list of returnees along with guard Tori Knight. They are the only seniors on Winland's roster. Irvin earned honorable mention all Eastern District honors as junior.
Junior guard Micca Mirabella and sophomore point guard Miranda Parkinson also lettered.
"We had a great summer," noted Winland, who again will be assisted by his father Dave along with Kelli Petchal.
"We played well in camp against some good opposition. That gave the girls a huge boost in confidence. They know they can hold their own with very good teams."
Junior Renee Dziewatkoski and sophomore Michaela Torrance round out Winland's group of varsity players.
"Any one of our varsity players can contribute in scoring," the Crusaders coach added. "Rachel and Rachel are dominant post players. Tori and Miranda are great shooters. Micca, Renee and Michaela all had great off seasons. They can contribute and score. We'll be looking to take advantage of what the defense gives us. We can spread teams out and we can pound it inside. It's beneficial when you can do a bunch of different things."
Depth is an area that has Winland, an Indian Creek product, concerned.
"We only have seven varsity players so we know we are not going to get by with that number," he pointed out. "Our freshmen group is coming along well and they will have to help us along the way."
There are seven freshmen on the Central roster, including Rachel Dziewatkoski, Haley Hartzall, Lauren Hunt, Kara Kakasick, Alex McComb, Hannah Ondos and Nichole Virtue. Sophomore Ana McNamara also is a member of the squad.
The Crusaders open the season with a home game against Tuscarawas Central Catholic. Bellaire St. John and Beallsville are new faces on the schedule for Central, which competes in Division III.