After a challenging season, the Oakcrest High School girls basketball team is optimistic.
The Falcons had a winless season under first-year coach Jason Vander Ryk last year, but return four starters, including senior captains Ashea Parks and Brielle Burnett.
Junior forward Kanesha Foster and sophomore forward Dominque Barber also return from last season's starting five.
That being said, the Falcons are still very young, with just three seniors.
They also have a lack of size and depth.
But Foster was a consistent top scorer last year.
"These girls have worked extremely hard in the offseason," Vander Ryk said.
"They had a tough season last year, but they came away stronger from that experience. Our focus is on working hard every day in practice from start to finish, all season long and hopefully we can pick up some wins along the way."
Newcomer freshman Olivia Aires is expected to contribute this year.
The 5-foot-7 guard and Foster could create a talented backcourt for the team.
The biggest challenge for the Falcons will be the highly competitive Cape-Atlantic League National Conference.
"The girls are very excited about this upcoming year," Vander Ryk said. "As a team, we are going to give you everything we have."
Contact Nyssa Dougherty:
League:Cape-Atlantic League National
Group: South Jersey Group IV
Coach: Jason Vander Ryk (0-22, second season)
2011-12 record: 0-22
2012-13 prediction: Rebuilding
Key players: Kanesha Foster, Jr., 5-9, F; Ashea Parks, Sr., 5-7, G; Brielle Burnett, Sr., 5-8, F; Dominque, So., 5-8, F.
Top newcomers: Olivia Aires, Fr., 5-7, G.
Dec. 14: vs. Hammonton, 6
Dec. 18: vs. Lower Cape May Regional, 6
Dec. 26-27: Boardwalk Classic at Wildwood Convention Center, TBD
Jan. 3: at Our Lady of Mercy Academy, 7
Jan. 4: at Ocean City, 6
Jan. 7: vs. Lindenwold, 6
Jan. 11: at Bridgeton, 6
Jan. 15: at Middle Township, 7
Jan. 16: vs. Wildwood Catholic, 6
Jan. 18: at Vineland, 6
Jan. 22: at Hammonton, 5:30
Jan. 24: vs. Camden County Tech, 6
Jan. 25: at Lower Cape May Regional, 7
Jan. 28: at Gateway, 5:30
Jan. 29: vs. Our Lady of Mercy Academy, 6
Feb. 1: vs. Ocean City, 6
Feb. 5: vs. Holy Spirit, 6
Feb. 6: at Wildwood Catholic, 5:30
Feb. 8: vs. Bridgeton, 6
Feb. 12: vs. Middle Township, 6
Feb. 14: vs. Absegami, 6