The Colonial Conference has a number of outstanding sophomores and no team is better equipped with second-year players than Sterling.
The Silver Knights have an all-sophomore starting backcourt of point guard Monica Burch, who averaged 10.3 points, and Kylie O'Donnell, who averaged 12.8.
"They really play well together," said Sterling coach Kate McDonald.
No wonder the Silver Knights appear to be contenders for the Colonial Liberty Division. Sterling returns one other double-figure scorer, 6-1 senior Samantha Eicholtz (11.3 ppg.).
There may not be a quicker backcourt in the Colonial than Overbrook's sophomore tandem of Jazmin Shaw and Shanika White.
"They are actually too fast for the game sometimes," Puderbach said. "Sometimes I have to tell them to slow down."
With just one starter back, 5-8 junior Michelle Foster, Overbrook will rely on the quickness of its backcourt in its first year in the Colonial after moving over from the Tri-County Conference.
Among the most versatile players in the Colonial conference is Haddonfield junior guard Emily Grabiak. Last season Grabiak averaged 10 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
"She can shoot, penetrate, and is great defensive player and does everything," said Haddonfield coach Lauren Friel. "She's a Division I basketball player, but hasn't played AAU so she hasn't received a lot of exposure."
Grabiak is coming off a big soccer season, having totaled 14 goals and nine assists for the South Jersey Group 2 champs.
Junior Tina Davis and Grabiak have been named captains of a young Haddonfield team that doesn't have a senior on the team.
The Colonial Conference coaches, in an informal polling, seem to feel that there is no prohibitive favorite to win either of the two divisions. Sterling and Haddonfield have received the most mention as the teams to beat in the Colonial Liberty Division.
Haddon Township, Paulsboro and Gateway are considered the frontrunners in the Patriot Division. Paulsboro has one of the top newcomers in freshman point guard Tiaja Harold.
Haddon Township has received a big boost in the preseason from the return of 5-10 senior Maddie McComb, who missed virtually all last season with a shoulder injury.
"It's been great to have her and she has done well in the scrimmages," said Haddon Township coach Tom Mulligan, who enters the season with 296 wins.
The Hawks can use the veteran leadership of McComb on a team that will have three sophomore guards - Jess Brown, Jess Donaldson and Haley Philpott - playing prominent roles.
New Woodbury coach Kate Bourquin has returned to South Jersey. Bourquin is a 2000 graduate of Washington Township and takes over the challenging job of trying to rebuild the Thundering Herd, who went 1-24 last season.
During the previous two years, Bourquin enjoyed a great deal of success Bourqun enjoyed a great deal of success as head coach of South Amboy, going 30-20 and winning one Greater Middlesex County Gold Division title.
"I'm really excited to be back in the area and coaching," she said. "I have a good idea of the Colonial and how talented the teams are."
The Thundering Herd will have among the quicker teams in the Colonial, led by 5-4 senior Jasmine McHuge.
A welcome addition to Audubon is Tyler Frankowski, a 5-10 freshman, who is expected to contribute immediately.
The addition of Frankowski will allow 5-6 senior Sam Hardymon to move to her more natural forward spot, according to coach Cheryl Clark. Frankowski will offer an inside presence to go with the outside game of point guard Katherine Francolino.
Here's a not so comforting thought for opponents of Gateway. Coach Stacey Kenefick says that Meghan Nowak, a 6-0 sophomore forward, has improved since last season, when Nowak averaged 13.9 points and 10.2 rebounds.
"She played with a Pennsylvania AAU team that really helped her improve," Kenefick said. "She's also a great student, seventh in her class, and is very humble."
Besides Nowak, the other starters are senior guards Megan Marsden and Caitlin Cusack.
- Marc Narducci