GLEN DALE - John Marshall is no longer the hunter, trading in that moniker for that of the hunted.
Coach Ed West seems to think that will present its own set of issues for the Monarchs, who are coming off a school-record 35-4 season that culminated in a West Virginia Class AAA state championship.
''It's a little bit more added pressure,'' West said. ''I think everyone's wanting to bring their A-game when they play us.
''The girls are pretty confident and I am pretty confident that we're going to be right in contention in OVAC, state, sectional and regional.''
There's a reason for that swagger, because John Marshall returns every player but one from a team that at one point registered a 29-game winning streak. That one player, Megan Garcia, is a pretty big loss, though.
''I could play her in the infield, she could pitch and play outfield,'' West said. ''Where it really hurts, is he was our team captain and our leader.
''The girls are kind of relying on each other and they're going to step up.''
The Monarchs suffered a different kind of loss with passing of Megan's father, Joe, this winter. He was a fixture at John Marshall games and is given credit for helping build Marshall County softball to what it is today.
''Joe was a very good supporter of our girls and our program,'' West said. ''I knew Joe before he even started coaching softball. We had been friends for a long time.
''All the girls played travel ball with Joe. It was a very sad thing and he'll certainly be missed.''
Left-handed flame thrower Amy Rotriga will man the circle for the fourth consecutive season. The senior is coming off a season in which she struck out 195 batters against a tremendously tough schedule.
''She came in as a freshman and beat Park twice in the sectional and has been exceptional from there on,'' the coach said. ''Amy's been really, really good for us and also plays a really solid first base.''
The task in preseason was finding a replacement for Megan Garcia as the team's No. 2 pitcher. The jobs appears to be filled by freshman Alissa Blake, who comes from exceptional blood lines. Her grandfather, Ed Grimm, who has coached a ton of softball, and her mother is Jackie Grimm, who was a standout softball player at the school and Ms. Monarch.
They'll be throwing to senior catcher Kristin Lewicki, who batted better than .500 last season and uses her excellent speed to her advantage in terms of the bunting game.
''What Lewicki does, she is very underrated as a defensive catcher,'' West said. ''The job she does behind the plate, I wouldn't trade her for anyone else in the state.''
Kylie Howard, the defending W.Va. Gatorade Player of the Year, is back at shortstop but was limited in practice by a knee injury she sustained during basketball season. Though she didn't have her full range early on, West said she more than makes up for it with the ''strongest arm I have ever seen for a girl.''
''That was kind of scary,'' West said of the injury. ''Her leg's not 100 percent, but she's practicing and going to therapy and is doing well.''
Rotriga will play first when not pitching. When she is though, that position will be manned by Jackie Gellner, who played right field a season ago. Another player in the mix is sophomore Maddi Namath.
Junior Hannah Rogerson, who switched from third to second base last season, will play there again.
Alexa Jones, a senior, is back at third base but is joined there by Cameron transfer Lexie Benline.
Sissy George returns for her junior season and will make all the calls in the outfield from center. West calls her a hard-nosed player that will do anything.
Senior Morgan Watson will be in left field, while in right field is Fairmont Senior transfer Athena Sayrie, a senior who has a good bunting and slapping game, according to her coach.
Namath could also see time in the outfield and Morgan Vucelik can also play there, as well as second base.
West is assisted by Eric Booth, Denny Phillips and Rod Swoger.