Hayden Hayden High School girls basketball coach Stephanie Davis expects this year's team to be a lot stronger than the 2005-06 squad that had to win a pigtail game to get into the district tournament.
"I believe we'll be in the top half of the district," said Davis, a second-year coach. "Anything else will be a huge disappointment."
The Tigers return 10 players from last year's team, including three starters. They also have six seniors and a rotation that can go 10 players deep.
It's that depth that excites Davis. An experienced roster should make Hayden a team to watch in District 5, she said.
The team's depth will allow Davis to implement a full-court defense for entire games, which should allow easy transition buckets on offense.
"It's going to be run and gun," Davis said. "We just have to make sure we watch our turnovers."
Another major difference between this year and last is the preparation the team put in over the summer and the camaraderie among the girls.
Davis, who also coached a majority of the girls during the volleyball season, said the Tigers played at summer tournaments in Craig and the Colorado School of Mines as well as games against Meeker and West Grand.
"We're way ahead of where we were last year," she said. "We're past getting to know each other. They know what my expectations are of them."
Davis expects senior Emily Whiteman and sophomore Holli Salazar to grab rebounds in the lane while Kylee Sweetser makes the transition to shooting guard. Point guard Jacquelyn Denker and defensive stopper Jessica Martin will round out the backcourt.
Hayden should find out relatively quickly where it stands in District 5. The Tigers start the season today against Meeker, one of the teams Davis thinks will contend for a league title. Along with Meeker, Davis expects Grand Valley, North Park and Plateau Valley to be part of "a dog fight" for the league title.
"I know we're ready to play," she said. "We're going to Meeker to play one of the top teams. It will give me a good chance to see where we stand as a team and in the league."