Lower Merion coach Lauren Pellicane calls it "unique." Others might say it's lucky.
"It doesn't very often happen that you have everybody back in high school basketball," Pellicane said.
But she does, and that's why the Aces are among the favorites for the league championship. The Aces were second in the Central last season and finished 21-9, losing to eventual District 1 Class AAAA champion Downingtown East in the playoff quarterfinals.
This season, the Central League's 12 teams - former member Harriton and Garnet Valley were added this season - will compete for a spot in its inaugural postseason playoffs. The league will have two divisions of six teams each grouped by school size.
The four teams with the best league record, regardless of division, will make the Central playoffs.
Molly Hanlon heads the list of returnees for Lower Merion. The 5-foot-10, two-time all-league player averaged 12 points a game last season.
She's joined by four-year starter Amy Woods, a 6-0 center, who added nearly nine points a game; sophomore point guard Sheba Hall, junior Dana Albalaney, and 6-0 Kiki Worku, a transfer from Ohio.
Add a round.
Coach Karen Hafich wants her Upper Darby team to extend its season at least one more game this season. The Royals were 18-7 last season after being ousted by Downingtown West in the first round of the District 1 Class AAAA playoffs.
"Our goal is to improve each season," said Hafich, who has been the coach for three years. "We'd like to have two home [playoff] games this season."
Trying to make that happen are three key seniors, Diamon Beckford, Dior Brown and Shaketa Hayward. Beckford, a recent New Hampshire signee, scored a team-high 17 points a game last season. She also was the Royals' leading rebounder.
Brown, headed to Rider, was the No. 2 rebounder.
A pair of standouts in other sports could be the key as to how far Radnor goes in basketball this season.
Central League cross-country champion Kelyn Freedman and soccer star Jen Gangl helped lead the Red Raiders to an 18-8 record and a fourth-place finish in the Central League last season.
"Kelyn missed 10 games with an ankle sprain," said Radnor coach Mark Jordan. "She's ready to go."
Jordan also expects big things from sophomore center Chandler Lally
A trio of juniors could be keys to Springfield's success. The Cougars figure to be one of the top teams in the small schools division.
Coach Kim Smith looks to Maddy McKnight, Jen Hootman and MyNeshia McKenzie to join with Kristen Quinn to make a winning combination. The Cougars were 16-9 a year ago.
Holes to fill.
Defending champion Conestoga went 17-1 in the league and 20-6 overall, but the key people who made that happen, including top scorer Chelsea Shine and big rebounder Kristen Johnsen, are gone to either graduation or transfer.
"We have a lot of numbers on the stat sheet that will have to be filled by others," coach John Jones said.
Junior point guard Katie Dunn and senior guard Ellen Hill return.
Around the league.
Strath Haven will count on point guard Sarah Berardini and forward Ana White in a bid to improve on last season's 8-16. At Penncrest, second-year coach Kristen Nath is looking for Caroline Moore, Colleen Doherty and Charlotte Beebe to help the Lions turn around a 3-21 mark.
First-year coach John Berardini inherited a Haverford team that was 7-17. Junior Kelly Keifer and sophomore Jill Root are among the Fords' top players. Newcomer Garnet Valley posted a 14-11 record playing an independent schedule last season. Top players include Amanda Guy and Meredith Ortals.
Harriton, which moved from the DelVal League back to the Central, was 11-10 last season.
- Don Beideman