High expectations. The expectations are back for Neumann-Goretti. That, coach Carl Arrigale says, is fine. No one puts more pressure on the Saints than the coach and the players, Arrigale said.
"The biggest thing is going to be our attitude and approach," he said. "In practice, it's been pretty good. All the guys, they're all better than they were last year."
Neumann-Goretti enters the season as the lone ranked team from Pennsylvania in ESPN's Rise Fab 50 rankings. The Saints check in at No. 18.
With seven of the team's top eight players back, that's hardly a surprise. What has Arrigale concerned most is a lack of size up front. The only player who didn't return is 6-foot-8 forward Scooter Gillette, who is now at Niagara University.
Replacing Gillette will be the Stewart brothers, Danny and Derek, who both stand about 6-foot-5, Arrigale said.
"We're going to have to be scrappy and tough," Arrigale said. "We played small last year, people don't realize that."
But the rest of the lineup should be reliable. Tony Chennault (Wake Forest) is one of the area's finest players. And three other starters have all committed to Division I schools: forward Danny Stewart (Rider), Tyreek Duren (La Salle), and Mustafaa Jones (Hartford).
"It's exciting," Arrigale said. "We're nationally ranked. It's exciting for the kids. It doesn't do much for me. It's my job to keep us there."
Numbers down. The Conwell-Egan girls' team won 15 games last season and finished sixth in the Catholic League before losing to eventual champion Archbishop Carroll in the second round of the playoffs.
Now the Eagles are dealing with an even tougher opponent: The numbers game. Egan has just 12 girls - including four freshmen - for both the JV and varsity teams this season. Several of Egan's feeder schools have combined because of decreasing enrollment, Eagles coach Norm O'Rourke said, and those feeder schools are shared with other Catholic League high schools.
What it all means is a big decrease in turnout.
"It's tough to deal with," O'Rourke said. "We're struggling because of the diminishing enrollment of the school."
Newcomer to watch. Remember this name: Fortunat "Junior" Kangudi. The Montreal native transferred to Roman Catholic when school started in the fall and could be a huge addition to the Cahillites.
Coach Chris McNesby said Kangudi has a family friend who teaches at West Chester University, and wanted to come to Philadelphia to play basketball so he could be noticed by colleges. He spent the summer on the Ohio AAU circuit, where he started turning some heads, McNesby said.
The 6-foot-7 athletic forward could quickly become a hot commodity.
"They haven't really seen him yet," McNesby said.
Coaching trade. Former Archbishop Wood interim coach Sean Tait is now the head man at his alma mater, Father Judge. Tait spent one year at Wood, leading the Vikings to a 16-7 season, before deciding not to pursue the permanent job. He is also a teacher at Judge.
Replacing Tait is former Wood standout Jack Walsh. Walsh, 45, graduated Wood in 1981 and served as an assistant coach to Joe Sette for eight years. Sette, still the athletic director at Wood, stepped down from coaching after the 2007-08 season.
Most experienced. The Archbishop Ryan girls' team has nine returning varsity players - including seven seniors - from a 19-7 (10-3 league) squad.
Coach Jaclyn Hartzell's team is led by Jess Koci, who has signed with La Salle. The starting lineup will feature five seniors.
"Expectations are high," Hartzell said.