Coach Dennis Smith knows his Holy Spirit High School girls basketball team faces different expectations this season than last.
The Spartans were young and inexperienced in 2011-12. Still, Spirit finished 19-9 and won the Cape-Atlantic League American Division. This season nearly every player from last season returns.
"All the pressure is on us," Smith said. "We won the (division) last (season). We're expected to do big things this year. Everybody is bringing their 'A' game to play us this season."
Holy Spirit returns one off the league's best backcourts with point guard Val Garofalo and shooting guard Summer Crilley.
"As Garofalo goes, we go," Smith said. "She gets us in our offense and also sets the tone defensively."
Smith said Crilley, a junior, is a more mature player this season.
Annie Wenz and Gina Lewis, both 6-foot seniors, provide size and rebounding.
"As everybody knows, we like to be uptempo," Smith said. "If we get rebounds, we can be uptempo and Annie and Gina lead that for us."
Holy Spirit competes in South Jersey Non-Public A against Shore Conference powers St. John Vianney and Red Bank Catholic. This season, Spirit will play Rumson Fair-Haven and Pt. Pleasant Beach to prepare for the postseason.
"In order to beat them," Smith said, "you have to play them."
Contact Michael McGarry:
League: Cape-Atlantic League American
Group: South Jersey Non-Public A
Coach: Dennis Smith (39-15, two seasons)
Last season's record: 19-9
2012-13 prediction: Contender - Spartans return nearly everybody from last season but will have to overcome the loss of Emily Higbee who is out for the season with torn knee ligaments.
Key players: Dayna Hartley, Sr., 5-6, G; Val Garofalo, Sr., 5-7, G; Audrey Wilson, So., 5-7, F; Annie Wenz, Sr., 6-0, F; Sarah Shields, Jr., 5-6, G; Brianne Long, Jr., 5-6, G; Amanda Reale, So., 5-9, F; Summer Crilley, Jr., 5-7, G; Krissy Pallitto, Sr., 6-1, F; Gina Lewis, Sr., 6-0, F; Alexa Steffens, So., 5-6, G; Cassidy Gallagher, Fr., 5-5, G.
5:30 p.m. Jan. 15 vs. Atlantic City
TBA Jan. 19 at Rumson Fair-Haven
7 p.m. Jan. 27 vs. Point Pleasant Beach
7 p.m. Feb. 12 at Atlantic City