WEIRTON - There are plenty of reasons for Weirton Madonna girls' basketball Coach Don Ogden to be excited and optimistic about the upcoming season. However, he also points out there is also plenty or room for improvement.
The Blue Dons are coming off a campaign in which they rolled to a 17-7 record and captured the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class A tournament championship.
Add to that the fact Madonna returns five senior starters to the fold and you can easily see where the excitement and optimism comes from.
''It seems that in everyone's opinion we should be stronger this season,'' Ogden said. ''But I told the girls just because you are going to be seniors doesn't mean that you are going to be better.
''You have to get better with practice - we can't just expect to go out on the court and be the same team as we were last year. But I am also excited because there is plenty of excitement with the girls and a very positive attitude.''
Senior Isabella Anile (5-foot-5) is the catalyst, having scored more than 11 points a game while adding four steals and four assists. Classmate Stephanie Magnone (5-8) returns coming off a season in which she produced nearly a double-double a night with 10 points and 9.5 rebounds.
Sara Lyons, a 6-footer, brings back 8.4 ppg and 6.0 caroms while the final two returning starters are Lisa Parkins (5-6, 6.5 ppg) and Kaitlyn Conner (5-7, 5.8 ppg, 2.6 assts.).
''These girls just bring so much balance for us,'' Ogden said. ''It seems like almost every game last year we had a different leading scorer.''
The starting five will be backed by a solid four-player rotation that includes senior Melanie Mazur and juniors Dylan Fenske, Amy Davis and Nicolette Sellitti. Mazure, Davis and Sellitti will all see a great deal of playing time while Fenske will be limited coming off an injury.
''I think the biggest difference coming into this season is that all we need to do is refresh,'' the fourth-year head coach added. ''Most of the girls already know what we are running and we are ahead in practice this year because of that.
''We are really trying to push the girls again. We have a competitive schedule that has improved with the opening that we filled.''
The biggest addition is a home game with West Virginia Class A powerhouse St. Marys and a return trip for the Blue Devils' tournament.
Madonna will also play home-and-away with the likes of Linsly, Oak Glen, Weir High and Steubenville Catholic.