Devan Solari has known two things in her basketball career at Williamstown: winning and looking up to her older teammates.
Solari, a 5-foot-5 point guard, hopes to keep winning this season. She's determined to lead the Braves to their fourth consecutive Tri-County Conference Royal Division title.
But as far as older teammates, Solari is out of luck. She's a senior now, and her teammates are looking up to her.
"It's definitely different," Solari said. "I was so used to playing with the other girls and looking up to them. This is a change. But I like it."
Solari is one of several senior guards who will serve as leaders on the floor and off in the Tri-County Conference.
Gloucester's Erin MacAdams, Clearview's Melanie Mahan, Glassboro's Ashlee Willis and Clayton's Chavone Shepherd will find themselves in a similar position on the girls' side. Deptford's Erv Ezell, Williamstown's Kevin Booth, Glassboro's Tim Breaker, and Salem's Quayshon Morris are among the athletes who will fill that role on the boys' side.
But Solari's situation is unique: She's the only returning starter from a team that won its third consecutive division title in 2007-08.
Plus, she is a four-year starter who played most of the last three seasons with last year's seniors, a class that included Christen Glutz, Ciera Moore, Kelly McNellis, Denay Morrison and Graceann Charles.
"I played with those girls since town ball," Solari said. "I looked up to them so much. They taught me how to develop as a person and not just as a basketball player.
"Hopefully, I learned enough that maybe now girls can come to me as a leader and I can help them out."
Williamstown coach Karen Dilmore said Solari has set the early-season tone for the Braves.
"She's become a true floor leader," Dilmore said. "She's leading by example and she's also leading by being more vocal on the court.
"She become an extension of the coaches out on the court."
Williamstown went 23-3 last season. The Braves lost to Washington Township in the semifinals of the South Jersey Group 4 tournament.
That Williamstown team, like the one in 2006-07, was filled with experienced players. This year, the Braves are counting on several athletes who saw limited action last season or participated mostly at the junior varsity level.
But they have a motivated and dedicated floor leader.
"She's very smart and very smooth," Deptford coach Mark Petito said of Solari. "I saw them in the summer and I was wondering what they would look like after losing all those girls.
"But she was a leader out there, not just in her play but in terms of the way she was helping out the younger girls.
"You need that in high school basketball. You have to have that senior leadership."
Dilmore said Solari is a solid all-around player, with the ability to hit the three-point jumper as well as drive to the basket. She's a tough defender, too.
But the coach said her senior leader's best attribute might be her toughness.
"She's not a finesse player," Dilmore said. "She's a tough-nosed kid. She will get down and dirty out there on the court to make a play for us. She always goes hard."
Williamstown will face some challenges in the Royal from the likes of Clearview, which returns four starters from a 16-11 team and features a pair of 6-footers in Noelle Hogan and Kiley Grabbe, as well as Delsea, Highland and Deptford.
But Solari knows the road to the title runs through Williamstown.
She's been part of three championship teams in her first three seasons. She looked up to her older teammates in all three.
She's planning on finishing 4 for 4 while her teammates look up to her.
"I wasn't too sure when practice started," Solari said. "But now I'm really confident. If we keep improving the way we've been improving, I think we'll keep our streak."