With the departures of the Irwins — Kyla Irwin and her 2,000 points are playing at UConn while coach Bethany Irwin and her 400 wins have been retired — it is a new State College team under Chris Leazier. The slate is practically wiped clean.
“I think what we’re trying to get our team to understand is that should be exciting to them,” Leazier said. “That means there is now an opportunity for these kids to play a new and significant role.”
It means there has been plenty of open competition for every role on the team. The only returning starter is senior point guard Kayla Hawbaker.
“Because of the losses, and the new coaching staff and new system, one of the most important things for us is kind of taking the long view,” Leazier said. “Our objective is not to be playing our best basketball on Dec. 13 when we open with (Central Dauphin) East. It’s going to take longer than that.”
The team has some size to compete in the always-daunting Mid Penn Conference in 6-footers Selena Mann and Taylor Love, the latter returning after missing last season with an injury. Also working in the post are Ellie Strauss, Denaya Poston and Elizabeth Czekaj.
Joining Hawbaker in the backcourt with a little experience are Jessica Lingenfelter, Kelsey Love and Lexi Risha.
Leazier hopes for an up-tempo, tough defensive team to help get the new-look program started.
“We’re going to try to play with some pace before the defense is settled and set,” he said.
Head coach: Chris Leazier (first season)
Assistant coaches: Allie Mock, Jamie Brennan, Leah Zimmerman
Last season: 20-4, District 6 Class AAAA champions, lost to Penn Hills in PIAA first round
Key losses: Kyla Irwin, Abby Allen, Jess Orndorf, Casey Witter
Returning letterwinners: Kayla Hawbaker, Ellie Strauss, Denaya Poston, Jessica Lingenfelter, Elizabeth Czekaj, Selena Mann, Kelsey Love, Lexi Risha