Last season, the Pennfield girls' basketball team came in with an empty slate in terms of returning starters. With no starters coming back, the Panthers were up and down all season and finished at 6-16 on the year.
This season, Pennfield is hoping to improve on that mark with a core group of returning players - hoping to lean on that experience to get back to the top half of the Kalamazoo Valley Association.
"Unlike last year, we have some starters coming back, plus some young talent coming in," Pennfield coach Rick Saldana said. "I am excited about the mix and I think we will do well."
Despite having players with returning varsity experience, Pennfield is still relatively young with just two seniors on the roster.
"When you have a young team, you need to build the confidence of that team early," Saldana said. "We hope to play with some grit and get some confidence early that we can use during the season."
Of the key returning players, Pennfield will lean on Shelby Miller the most. The junior was All-City and All-KVA as a sophomore and had 12 points per game with four rebounds and three steals a contest, including a breakout game with 26 points. After leading the team in scoring, Saldana is looking for more this year.
"I think she is one of the better shooters in the KVA, she will be a key to our season," Saldana said.
The other core starting returners include junior guard Hannah Lenz and 5-foot-10 junior center Armani Anderson.
"Those three girls that started last year and are coming back give us a good core group to start with," Saldana said. "Our speed and ability to put the ball in the hole is going to be our bread and butter."
Pennfield's deep team also includes senior guard Samantha Tuttle, junior forward Alia Hack, junior forward Baylee Shelton and sophomore guard Kaitlyn Wilkey.
Olivet finished first in the KVA last year with Parchment and Delton Kellogg close behind in the quality conference. Pennfield is hoping to get back near the top last year after being in the bottom half last season.
"The KVA is tough and every game counts. But I think we have the horses to get back going toward the top where we belong," Saldana said.