The Oakcrest High School girls basketball team has had three different coaches in the last six seasons.
New head coach Erica Bell wants to put an end to that trend. Bell, a 2004 Oakcrest graduate, takes over the program for Jason Vander Ryk, who will coach at the Atlantic County Institute of Technology.
"I wouldn't have decided to be a head coach for anywhere other than Oakcrest," Bell said. "I'm here for the long haul. My main goal is to build a program for Oakcrest."
Bell was a standout basketball player at Oakcrest, scoring 1,065 career points as a Falcon. She went on to play for NCAA Division I Long Island University before returning to the school as a JV and assistant varsity coach.
The Falcons have a blend of a large senior class and a group of promising freshmen and sophomores. Among the seniors is guard Kanesha Foster, who sparked Oakcrest's offense in a breakout junior season.
Bell's passion for Oakcrest basketball will only strengthen the budding program. The team won four games last season after a winless 2011-12 campaign. The Falcons hope to top that number again this year.
Oakcrest may not be a contender in a tough Cape-Atlantic League National Division - yet. But the foundation for future success is in place.
"We're going to take our lumps and bumps early," Bell said. "We'll go through some growing pains, but we'll learn from them and be better off in the long run."
League: Cape-Atlantic League National
Group: South Jersey Group III
Coach: Erica Bell (first season)
2012-13 record: 4-18
2013-14 prediction: Competitive - Oakcrest is in a tough division, but with a new coach and senior leadership, the Falcons should continue to improve throughout the season.
Key players: Kanesha Foster, Sr., G; Olivia Aires, So., G; Carla Torian, Jr., F; Dominique Barber, Jr., F.