Wallenpaupack Area's girls varsity basketball teams are ready for another big season.
When you are the defending champ, you're marked from the get- go.
From the first scrimmage to the last game of the regular season, every team you face will give it a little extra in the hopes they will beat you and then be able to gloat.
With Alexix Roman no longer a part of the Lady Bucks' equation there are, undoubtedly, a lot of teams out there who feel they will be able to get their digs on Wallenpaupack this year.
While it would be a fallacy to say Roman was not the keystone for Paupack's success, it would be just as presumptuous to think the Lady Bucks are going to be a push over team this season.
Not having Roman anymore might be a chip on the Lady Bucks' shoulders, and if that's the case, it's welcomed by Head Coach Adam Holtzer.
"We still a very talented and experienced team," he stated. "And, if anyone says we're not we're here to show them they're wrong."
In his second year behind the bench, Holtzer certainly doesn't want to fall into a sophomore slump himself, and in some cases his coaching and leadership will be under even more scrutiny this year than last year.
A good chunk of that talent and experience will undoubtedly come from Paupack's two seniors, Nicki Mann and Raeann Ehrhardt.
Mann netted 142 points last season and was .500 from the line.
Returning to her role as the set-up person, Mann will once again be calling a lot of the shots from her point guard position.
Ehrhardt, while not clocking a lot of time last season, put up a respectable put up 68 points and was fourth on the Bucks 3-pointer list, banking in 11 treys.
Both are even tempered and cool under fire.
Adding to the skill and experience is junior Bridgette Mann. As a sophomore she finished eighth in average scoring per game and tied for the top spot in 3-pointers among Lackawanna League Division II players.
On more than one night she was also the top points leader for the Lady Bucks. Mann's aggressive, and at times, emotional play may have tempered.
"Everyone has been working hard," Mann expressed during a Paupack practice session.
"We know there are some big shoes to fill with Lex (Roman) gone, but that's just motivating us more. We want to prove that last year wasn't just luck."
Last year there were six players who were solid starters and Holtzer was forced to rotate through them depending on the situation.
While Ehrhardt and the Mann sisters will probably get first dibs on the hardwood in most games, the remaining spots are far from carved into stone.
"The new starters are certainly going to be pressured," Holtzer said.
With seven juniors in the mix competition among the players will be tight to keep those positions.
Irene Dispenza is one of those juniors looking for a steady starting gig.
As a JV player, she was given the Lady Buck award two years in a row and is a player who does what it takes to win.
With the center position now open, it's a good chance she'll find herself frequently taking up residence in the paint.
"I think we have a good team," she related. "The teamwork is good and we all communicate well. It should be a good year."
Not seeing a lot of time last season on the varsity court, she still managed to rack up 25 points and should be good for plenty more than that come this season.
Sophomores Molly Jansco and Skylar Wirth will undoubtedly see more varsity time this year.
With Jansco comes height and with Wirth comes speed. Another Lady Buck Award winner, freshman Liv Scartelli, who was a key player on last year's undefeated 8th grade team, is also on the hunt for some varsity court time.