Continuity is a pillar of success for the Lebanon girls basketball program.
Head coach Mardy Benedict has been a part of the program since 1991, taking off just one season in the past 27 years. On the court, the Warriors return six varsity players from last year, including four starters.
Their starting lineup will feature seniors Morgan Hopkins and Maddy Romeo, along with juniors Ellie Croco and Mary Workman. The fifth spot will be filled by senior Megan Miller, who missed last season due to a back injury.
Benedict is happy to have Miller back on the floor.
"She's just a workhorse, a leader," Benedict said. "She'll fill right in there for that spot."
Senior Paige Wombacher, also a returning varsity players, will provide experience off the bench.
"She's real versatile," Benedict said of Wombacher.
They are joined by a group of sophomores and juniors moving up to varsity for the first time.
"Our young kids coming up are just getting better and better. We've just got a great group of girls that want to work hard and learn," Benedict said.
Romeo said several members of the team have been playing together since they were in eighth grade and they developed a deep chemistry.
"It's really fun to have so many girls that have been playing together for so long," Romeo said. "Everybody's goal is to get to state."
The Warriors went 18-7 last season, 8-6 in the Mid-Willamette Conference. They placed fourth in league and lost to Bend in the first round of the 5A state playoffs.
"That was a tough one," Romeo said of the playoff loss.
This season, Benedict expects West Albany, which has returned to the 5A classification and the Mid-Willamette Conference, to bring its fast-paced offense back to league play. Central returns some experienced guards and Silverton will play the physical style for which it is known. Corvallis and Crescent Valley return strong players as they do every year.
Last season, Silverton won the league title with Central and Crescent Valley sharing second place.
Benedict believes he has a squad which can be balanced both offensively and defensively, taking advantage of the weaknesses of each particular opponent. The Warriors want to be able to score inside and out, be effective in the half court and in transition, and be capable of mixing up their defenses between man and zone.
Benedict thinks the team's depth will be a real asset.
"We have 10 girls that can come in and contribute. I want to reward them for playing well," Benedict said. "Someone gets in four trouble, someone gets injured, you have to be ready to step in."
Unlike past years when league play began around New Year's, the conference schedule will start earlier this year. This is due in part to being part of a nine-team league.
The Warriors open their season on Friday, Nov. 30 with a game at Ridgeview. Lebanon will host Milwaukie on Tuesday, Dec. 4 and open league play at Corvallis on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
Romeo is anxious for her senior season to get under way.
"Definitely having that experience will help us along the way. We're more than a team, we're a family," Romeo said.