Experience counts. The Great Valley girls' team has compiled an impressive 75-14 record over the last three years, including a 9-3 mark in District 1 Class AAA playoffs and a 2-2 record in the PIAA playoffs. Coach Paul Girone doesn't see any reason why that success rate shouldn't continue this season.

"We return all but Dana Walsh. She's playing for Dickinson now," said Girone.

The Patriots were 25-5 last season while wrapping up the Ches-Mont League's American Division in Girone's fifth year as coach.

Heading the returnees are seniors Colleen O'Malley and Emily Hagar. O'Malley, who hopes to play lacrosse for Louisville after she graduates, averaged 13 points a game last season. Hagar is Girone's big player at 5-feet-10.

Girone looks for perennially strong Oxford and West Chester Rustin to challenge for the division crown.

"Rustin and Unionville have new coaches, so that should make things interesting," he said.

Tony Zambino takes over at Unionville, while Colette Dugan is the new coach at Rustin.

Hornets eye rebound. After winning an average of 25 games per season for several years, the Oxford boys slipped to 7-15 last season. Coach Sean Harvey is hoping that, with a number of players returning, the Hornets can get back on the winning track.

"Last year was a rebuilding year, so I went young," said Harvey, who is in his eighth season at Oxford.

Two big returnees are Wes Pennington, a 6-foot-8 senior, and Vinnie Sanders, a 6-4 junior who has been starting since he was a freshman. In Oxford's third game last season, Pennington suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for much of the season.

Steady as she goes. Hired to steady a Coatesville boys' program that had been uncharacteristically struggling, Rick Nelms turned in a 17-7 record last season. The Red Raiders captured the Ches-Mont League National Division title in a tight race with West Chester Henderson only to lose to the Warriors in the District 1 Class AAAA playoffs.

Nelms expects the Red Raiders, led by Pat Brewer, John Warmijak and Marcus Blakely, to be in the division race again. Warmijak checks in at 6-5.

Emphasis on defense. West Chester Henderson boys' coach Leon Bell said his team's emphasis will have to be on defense. The Warriors will need to be strong defensively if they are to challenge Coatesville and Downingtown West for the Ches-Mont National Division crown.

"We're not very tall," said Bell, who will look to a pair of returning starters, junior Austin Constable and senior Scott Fenton. "We'll have to attack offensively and bang the boards."

- Don Beideman