It's a rare luxury in the world of high school sports, but the Prairie City-Monroe girls basketball team will get to enjoy it this season.
Returning every starter and key bench player from last year's 13-10 team, the Mustangs have their sights set high for their experienced group that features five seniors.
"The main thing is our girls have some very high expectations of themselves," PCM coach Bret Grier said. "Every year the coaches always have high expectations, but the girls did a tremendous job of getting in the gym over the summer and this past fall in the weight room."
The same starting five of seniors Kelsey Townsend, Kaitlyn Wilkie and Krisha Houseman, junior Abbi Gilson and sophomore Courtney Van Houweling will take the floor just as they did last year. Townsend and Van Houweling were the team's leading scorers at 11.9 and 11 points per game, respectively, while Gilson was just behind them at 9.8. Van Houweling will again run the point with Houseman and Wilkie in the backcourt, while Townsend and Gilson will patrol the paint.
Coming off the bench, senior Payge Edwards will see a slightly more increased role from last year in which she appeared in all 23 games. Seeing much more expanded roles will be junior Lexi Kain and sophomore Grace Telfer. In fact, Telfer led the Mustangs in scoring in their first game with 13 points, while Kain contributed four of her own.
"Lexi Kain is a tremendous athlete and she'll do a great job defensively on both guards and forwards," Grier said. "Grace worked her tail off last spring and she's our only true center. We'll be able to use her a lot."
A common theme from last year that Grier has already addressed is aggressiveness. The Mustangs were forced into complacency at times last year because of just six regular players. But with two more added to the game plan and a more physical team this time around, aggressiveness shouldn't be a problem for PCM.
"We didn't do a lot of pressing last year, but we'll start to show that a lot more this year," Grier said. "With how much they got into the weight room for their strength and conditioning, it's really paid off. Also, our depth has grown from last year and foul trouble really got to you when you play six deep."
Grier, in his second year with the team, recognizes what his team is trying to accomplish this season. It could be a while before the Mustangs have this much experience on the floor, so they don't want to waste the opportunity they have.
"I'm just proud of the girls we have out," Grier said. "They've all been working really hard. Last year we kept things pretty simple because they were all pretty inexperienced, but this year we've been throwing new offenses and a bunch of different defenses at them, but they've responded well. They're older, they can handle more and our senior leadership is really showing."
PCM will continue its season at Gilbert on Nov. 27.