George Washington senior Kelli Jo Harrison (left) injured her knee during the summer and isn't projected back until late December or early January.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Capital danced all the way to the state tournament last year, wearing Cinderella's slipper, while perennial contenders Charleston Catholic and George Washington missed the ball.
The Cougars pulled off one of the unlikeliest end-of-season runs to the Civic Center in recent memory, becoming the only state qualifier from the Kanawha Valley after upsetting defending state champion Greenbrier East on the Spartans home floor in the Class AAA co-regionals. The clock struck midnight, though, on Capital in the state quarterfinals.
The Cougars will be starting from scratch with seven of their top nine players gone when the season opens Tuesday around the state. High school girls basketball teams may begin playing games next week, but most in the Kanawha Valley open later.
Only two players who saw any significant playing time last year return for Capital (9-14) in 5-foot-11 post player Dashia Foster and 5-6 guard India Hairston, both juniors.
Foster had double figures in points and rebounds in almost half of Capital's games. Jayna Hurst, a 5-11 sophomore who skipped basketball last season to focus on volleyball, will give the Cougars added post presence.
Hairston will be expected to pick up some of the slack on offense after Capital graduated its top two scorers. The lone senior is Jahneece Clements, a 5-5 forward who is in only her second year of high school ball.
George Washington (16-9) is still feeling the sting of last season, losing to Princeton on its home court in the Class AAA regional co-finals, a step away from states. The Patriots had advanced to the state semifinals the previous two years.
It might be rough early for the Patriots, who have a few holes to fill with the graduation of three starters, including last year's leading point producer. In addition, GW senior Kelli Jo Harrison, an all-state third-team selection who has signed with Fairmont State after averaging 17.1 points and 9.5 rebounds last year, suffered a knee injury this summer and isn't expected back until late December or early January. Harrison has already topped 1,000 career points.
Juniors Alanna Mobayed, a three-year starter at point guard, Hailey Stewart, who saw a lot of varsity time at shooting guard last season, Maria Romeo and Lilly Ash and sophomore Elishia Davis will hold down the fort until Harrison arrives.
Olivia Miller, a 5-11 junior, sophomore Jessica Lowen and 6-3 freshman Shionna Banks will round out the lineup, getting playing time whenever the matchups dictate.
"There were a lot of question marks,'' said GW coach Jamie LaMaster. "I'm very pleased with [our players'] commitment and attitude. I have to run them out of the gym. The chemistry seems to be exceptionally well. I think we have a chance to have a great year. They're giving me a good feeling.''
Charleston Catholic (9-16) will break in a new coach - Zack Bogan - for the second time in as many seasons. Bogan, a 2007 Charleston Catholic graduate, was an assistant for the last month of the 2012-13 season before taking over in the offseason.
The Fighting Irish, who fell at Williamstown by 25 points in the Class A regional co-final, return a mostly young squad but do have two seniors in guards Anna Whelan, who averaged 11.6 points, and Hannah Gallian. Two of the younger players - sophomores Caroline Dundervill and Payton Mullen - are known for their speed on the soccer pitch and should fit right in with Bogan's fast-paced style.
Here's a quick glance - in alphabetical order with records in parentheses - at how the rest of the teams in Kanawha and Putnam counties are shaping up:
Buffalo (18-5): The Bison set the program's single-season record for victories last season and welcomes back four starters.
Leading the way is senior Chelsey Parkins, a 5-11 post player who was a Class A second-team all-state selection after averaging 18.9 points and 18.2 rebounds. She set program single-season marks for points and rebounds and tied for the Kanawha Valley lead in scoring average. The Bison also welcome back guards Paige Roush, Olivia Dunn and Katie Allen.
Herbert Hoover (12-11): The Huskies produced their first winning season since 1996. Seniors Emily Brown and Makenzie Edmunds return and will be joined by fellow seniors Hannah King and Hope Johnson, neither of whom played last season. A strong junior class of Bethany Romine, Zoey Carte, Caroline Thornburg and Bailey Aab will strength the rotation as will experienced sophomores Hannah Schoolcraft and Kari Harding.
Hurricane (6-17): Abby Watson, a 5-8 junior guard, averaged a Kanawha Valley-high 18.9 points and is getting looks from Division I schools Radford, Morehead State and Eastern Kentucky.
Key starters Audrey Barber (point guard) and Taniesha Sturdavent (center) are also back. Hannah Thompson, Cassi Sargent, Emily Browning, Kaylee Wooten, Bonnie Runyon, Kelly Kesler and Lauren London will fill out the rest of the lineup and bench.
Nitro (10-12): The Wildcats posted double-figure wins for the first time since 2008-09 behind Savannah Shamblin, 5-4 junior guard who averaged 18.8 points and was the fourth-leading scorer in the Mountain State Athletic Conference.
Shamblin will be joined by a veteran lineup of seniors Halie Miller (5-10), Bethany Hill (5-7) and junior Hannah Linville (5-7). Junior Tiffany Reavis, a 5-11 transfer from Capital, 5-8 junior Haleigh Mace, 5-9 freshman Bethany Linville and 5-5 junior Katee Jones will also be counted on.
Poca (5-19): While the Dots' record may not immediately jump out consider that the season before the team disbanded after three games because of a lack of players. The Dots upset a solid Hoover squad in the first round of last year's sectionals. The returning starters are seniors Harley Hutchins and Hannah Bailey, along with juniors Kendall Sayre and Mackenzie Ball.
Riverside (7-18): Brittany Wood, a 6-0 junior center who turned in 16.5 points per game, nearly averaged a triple-double in earning Class AAA all-state third-team honors for the Warriors. Seniors Rachel Mills (guard), Kara Knapp (guard), Sheree Harris (forward) and LaMontica Burger (forward) were also starters last year.
St. Albans (14-11): Breanna Propst, a 5-11 junior post player who averaged 16.3 points in earning AAA all-state third-team recognition, spearheads the Red Dragons' attack. Senior Katelyn Propst, a 5-6 guard, sophomore 5-6 point guard Tori Wilson, 5-9 sophomore Cameron Davis and 5-6 junior Lexi Cooper round out the starting lineup.
Sissonville (16-7): The Indians have three starters back in sophomores Madison Jones (17.0 points) in getting a Class AA all-state second-team selection, Karli Pinkerton (15.2) and Brooke Reed. The trio led Sissonville to the Class AA-A girls soccer state championship earlier this month. Seniors Mariah Youngblood and Brittany Gould, a transfer from Clay who averaged 21.3 points in garnering a Class AA all-state third-team pick, and junior Ellie McClung will vie for the other starting positions.
South Charleston (11-12): Gary Greene returns to the bench after taking a medical leave of absence last season. He guided the Black Eagles to four consecutive AAA state tournament appearances (2009-2012), including a pair of runner-up finishes. Junior Lina Villanueva (11.6 points) and sophomore Taliah Cashwell, both guards, along with juniors Ary Mosley, a center, and forward Alexia Wade represent the team's returning core. Beyond that as many as eight freshmen could see varsity time.
Winfield (12-13): The Generals head into the season with a lot of uncertainty as senior forward-guard Mackenzie Arthur (5-10) heads into knee surgery with no time frame for a return and junior forward Jayne Lawman (5-9) also finished her soccer season with a foot injury. Winfield must replace its top two scorers and junior 5-5 shooting guard Haylea Roberson leads the returnees, averaging 8.4 points last season.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4811.