Carson High's girls' basketball team surprised many around Northern Nevada with its 11-game turnaround during the 2008-09 season.
The Senators compiled a 17-13 record en route to a third-place finish in the Sierra League under the guidance of Todd Ackerman.
Most of that one-year improvement can be attributed to speedy senior point guard Brandi Vega, who was arguably the toughest match-up in Northern Nevada last season. She could impact the game at both ends of the floor.
Also lost to graduation were Tiffany O'Day, Cassie Vondrak, Krista Mattice, Blaike King, Kailey Taylor and Breanna Anderson.
It leaves Ackerman with just two seniors - Gina Bianchi and Yvonne Hollett - on this year's squad. Besides Bianchi and Hollett, the Senators also return Natalie Stevens, Elayna Shine and Whitney Nash. Of those five, only Stevens didn't get significant minutes a year ago.
That group will be joined by sophomores Tiana McAllister-Daggs and Eliza Matley, freshman Ashley Saarem and juniors Kate Schulz, Lisa Yamamoto, Jazmyn Stokes and Maddi Saarem.
"We're young," Ackerman said. "We have good chemistry. They are working extremely hard. They are trying to understand (what we're doing). We have to speed up the learning curve with all 12 players.
"I won't say rebuilding. We have five returners. We're not as good as we were last year. We're working on them learning to play together."
Ackerman said that things will be different without Vega.
"Not having Brandi will definitely change us on the offensive end just because she could take over a game by herself," Ackerman said. "We don't have anybody that can take a game over like that. Defensively, she made a lot of things happen. We just can't replace what she could do out there.
"It will come down to how well we shoot the ball. If we continue (like we've been doing), I feel pretty comfortable. We have to continue to get better and better. In time it will start to click."
Even without Vega, Ackerman hopes that the Senators will be able to get up and down the floor.
"I'm not a proponent of walking the ball up the floor," Ackerman said. " We have some experience out front so hopefully we can push the ball some. We'll have to pick our spots when we want to run.
"We're playing basically four guards. It's going to be a tough match-up for us defensively, and it will be tough matching up with us, too. We do have the ability to change personnel put a quick team in there which could cause other teams some problems."
Ackerman has four players currently playing the point - Shine, Ashley Saarem, Stevens and Matley. Shine was Vega's main back-up last season. Ackerman said the job will be Shine's to start with. She can penetrate and drop in an occasional outside shot.
"I'm looking for somebody who can bring the ball up and get us into whatever we are running," Ackerman said of what he expects from his point guard.
Bianchi is Carson's best long-distance threat after dropping more than 40 3-pointers to become Carson's all-time leader in that category. She needs to be able to score other ways this year and create her own shot off the dribble.
Hollett and Nash are 3-point threats, too. Matley and Ashley Saarem also will battle for playing time at either guard or small forward.
Ackerman said his biggest concern is inside play. Vondrak and O'Day were rugged performers inside, and now the third-year coach turns to McAllister-Daggs, Maddi Saarem and Lisa Yamamoto for inside muscle. Schulz and Stokes also figure to get minutes up front.