With battle-tested players like Catie Cox, Brooke Payne and Becca Hendley no longer around, the Dixon girls basketball team has some holes to fill.
Second-year head coach Luke Ravlin thinks he has a senior class willing and able to step up and fill some of those holes.
Kacie Dillow and Emily Rains were major contributors a year ago, while fellow seniors Erika Meeks, Darianne Edwards and Taylor Colby will be counted on for expanded roles in the 2012-13 season.
"We had a lot of kids who put in a tremendous amount of effort in practice to continue to build their game," Ravlin said, "and now, that's really going to pay off for them. They're going to be able to step up come game time."
Dillow was looked upon to be a defensive stopper last season, often drawing the assignment to check the other team's top perimeter threat. She may still be asked to do that on occasion, but will also be asked to increase her scoring average of 4.3 points per game.
"I'm still defensive, but more of my focus is on offense because I know I have to score more this year," Dillow said. "I'm working really hard on my 3-point shot and driving to the basket. If they're taller or bigger, I can drive right by them – that's what I'm looking for this year."
Dixon is sure to see a lot of gimmick defenses this season to slow down junior guard Brooke Bailey, who is a good bet to increase her 13.5 points per game scoring average. That will leave openings for others, and Dillow plans to cash in.
"She's worked incredibly hard on her offensive game since I've been here," Ravlin said. "We're confident that she'll be able to add in every way possible on the court. She's that type of player. That hard work shows now."
Meeks has the defensive chops to step into Dillow's role from a year ago, while the 5-foot-7 Edwards and the 5-6 Colby will be asked to lend support inside. Ravlin described them as "non-traditional posts," but they have other intangibles that can make them effective.
"Both of those kids play with a tremendous amount of heart," Ravlin said. "They know their roles. They're going to come in and rebound the ball, defend and do all the things we want a player to do. They can both score the ball when we need to, so we're confident in their abilities in the four and five spots."
Rains was a starter a year ago and averaged 2.3 points a game. Her offseason took a hit when she tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during a pickup game in March, and she hopes to be back in action by around Christmas.
The majority of the Duchesses are listed right around Rains' height of 5-6, but she thinks the team has the stuff to overcome shortcomings like that.
"We're not a really tall team," Rains said, "but the seniors have been working twice as hard to make up for any of that kind of thing. I think it's going to be a good season."