There was a time when it all caught up to the sophomores on last season's Archbishop Wood girls' basketball team. The group of seven had been riding senior Ashley Robinson and junior Sam Greenfield while making youthful mistakes.
Then came the Catholic League championship game against Archbishop Carroll.
"When you walk on the court at the Palestra and see how big it is," Wood coach Jim Ricci said, "you could see it in their eyes."
Wood scored just 22 points and lost by 13 to Carroll, which went on to win the PIAA Class AAA state title. It's still painful to watch that game, Ricci says, because his team just couldn't hit any shots.
But now, coming off a 20-win season, Ricci remembers the positives about that game and what it could mean for the juniors on his team.
"You have to think that helps down the road," Ricci said.
It'll have to. The Vikings haven't won a Catholic League title since 1982, and will depend on a large junior class if they are to surpass last season's ending. After dropping the PCL title game, Wood lost to Mount St. Joseph in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs.
The message from Ricci to his seven juniors is clear, he said.
"Last year, they were able to make some mistakes," Ricci said. "Everyone can go, 'OK it's a sophomore mistake. They have seniors ahead of them.' But now they're juniors and looked at as leaders. Some of the mistakes they made last year, they can't make this year for us to win."
Robinson, now a freshman at St. Joseph's, scored more than 1,000 points in her Vikings career.
The lone senior on the squad is Greenfield.
Juniors Tori Arnao (6-foot center), Christine Verrelle, (5-foot-8 guard), Cait McCartney (5-9 guard), and Steph Keyes (5-8 shooting guard) will make up the rest of the starting lineup.
Off the bench, Ricci will look to two 5-10 junior forwards, Jenna Swope and Aubrey Howland, for depth. Another junior, Grace Mirack, will back up at guard.
Ricci said he likes the composure of the class, but in reality, he isn't sure how it will all turn out.
"I don't know how good they are," he said.
Archbishop Ryan coach Jaclyn Hartzell coached the current juniors when she was the junior varsity coach at Wood. The experience the seven juniors have already gained will be crucial, she said.
"They're going to be very, very good," Hartzell said.
That's the challenge, especially when it comes to breaking the stranglehold that Carroll and Cardinal O'Hara have had on girls' basketball in the Catholic League.
But last season, after losing four players to Division I schools, the seven responded as sophomores and helped lead Wood to one win shy of the Catholci League championship.
"They need to play with more maturity," Ricci said. "Things they got away with last year, they're not going to be able to get away with this year. They need to play like seniors when they're not."