With just a handful of upperclassmen and eight freshmen, the Benton Rangerettes are expected to be a work in progress this season.
The team has just two seniors. Baylie Sawyer (5-2) and point guard Eb Casey (5-3) were both on last year's squad, although Sawyer has little varsity experience.
"Bailey came out last year as a junior. Eb played a lot for us as a sophomore and started as a junior. She's kind of our team leader and the one we look to. I think we'll go as she goes," said coach Andy Sloan.
"We have three back from last year in sophomore Zoe Carlton (5-6), junior Ember Milby (5-8) and Casey. But then we're definitely looking for a couple of other starters," Sloan said.
Sophomore Mady Wallace (5-4) may fill one of the spots.
"She had a great junior high career and we're looking for some good things out of her this year," said Sloan.
The remaining starting spot will be up for grabs. Vying for the position are junior Kelsey Wilcox (5-9), freshman Addyson Miller (5-7) sophomore Kathy Johnson (5-7) and freshman Sesley Tedeschi (5-9).
"We've feel comfortable with three or four spots but that fifth spot may be something we rotate all year long, depending on who we're playing and how kids are playing," Sloan said.
Sloan said this year's team should be better offensively than it was a year ago. The Rangerettes are coming off a 17-13 campaign, losing in the regional championship to Murphysboro. The Rangerettes won back-to-back regionals in 2015 and 2016.
"I think our guards are a lot better. I think we'll have better shooters. We like where we are offensively. Something that's really been good for us in the past has been our defense but right now we're not where we need to be yet," he said. "We've been concentrating on defense and what we can do on that end of the floor."
In addition to Miller and Tedeschi, the sixth year coach is hoping the eight freshmen can contribute. They include: Cailyn Fowlkes, Payton Thomas, Olivia Wilkey, Mary Martinez, Katie Hill and Madison Lingle.
"In a perfect situation you wouldn't have to throw them in the mix too soon but with us having just five upperclassmen those freshmen may have to play big minutes in November and December. You would like to wait and bring them along in January but I think we're going to have to put them into the fire and see what they do."
Finishing above .500 in conference play and competing for a regional title are two team goals.
"Our league in the past has been where no one is going to blow through it at 10-0. You figure if you can win them all at home and get a couple on the road you have a shot and you want to try to get to the regional final and give yourself a chance to win a title. We want to be good at the end of the year and with this group it's going to take some time," he concluded.
The Rangerettes will have one game with an out of state school this year. Herculaneum, Mo., will visit Benton on Jan. 27. Sloan said the game was scheduled to accommodate their coach, Riley Blair, who is a BCHS graduate.
Benton opens the season 6:30 p.m. Nov. 20 against Mount Vernon in the Nashville Tournament.
"With this group trying to get better every game is probably where we need to focus early on in the season," Sloan said.