The Ocean City High School girls basketball team will get a quick glimpse at how well it will fare against the Cape-Atlantic League elite early this season.
The defending National Division champions start with two games against fellow CAL contenders - division rival Our Lady of Mercy Academy and United Division favorite Cedar Creek.
There are some new pieces to fit into the rotation, but the Red Raiders are focused on holding their spot near the top of the league. Led by 6-foot-2 senior center Julia Duggan, a two-time Press first-team All-Star, Ocean City has its sights set on the CAL and South Jersey Group III tournaments.
"We're going to go in with that mindset (that we'll contend)," Ocean City coach Paul Baruffi said. "We'll find out right away if we're going to compete. We think we will."
Duggan, who will play NCAA Division I basketball at Rider University next year, averaged 16.9 points and 10.2 rebounds to lead the Red Raiders to the CAL title game and a South Jersey Group III final. Senior Katie Johnson returns to run the point and senior Natalie Landi is back at forward.
Sophomore guard Karissa Bourbeau, who saw minutes as a freshman, will take over for Reilly Larkin, a Neumann University freshman who sank 51 3-pointers and was a tenacious defender last year. Senior Mary Kate Mateer and junior Taylor Price will compete for the starting forward spot left by Emily Duggan, who is now playing at Gettysburg College.
"I'm trying to fit the other people in right now to get some continuity within the team," Baruffi said.
Contact Brittany Grugan:
League: Cape-Atlantic League National
Group: South Jersey Group III
Coach: Paul Baruffi (233-77, 12th season)
2011-12 Record: 24-5
2012-13 Prediction: Favorite
Key Players: Julia Duggan, Sr., 6-2, C; Katie Johnson, Sr., 5-3, G; Natalie Landi, Sr., 5-10, F.
Top Newcomers: Karissa Bourbeau, So., 5-8, F/G; Mary Kate Mateer, Jr., F, 5-10; Taylor Price, Jr., 5-10, F; Tess Solazzo, Sr., 5-6, G; Olivia Briggs, Fr., G; Nicole Piergross, Fr., G.
Dec. 14: vs. Our Lady of Mercy, 6 p.m.
Dec. 16: vs. Cedar Creek (Ocean City Tipoff Tournament), 5:15 p.m.
Dec. 18: at Bridgeton, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 21: at Hammonton, 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 28-29: Disney Christmas Tournament
Jan. 4: vs. Oakcrest, 6 p.m.
Jan. 8: vs. Middle Township, 6 p.m.
Jan. 11: at Lower Cape May Regional, 6 p.m.
Jan. 18: at Atlantic City, 7 p.m.
Jan. 22: at Our Lady of Mercy Academy, 6 p.m.
Jan. 25: vs. Bridgeton, 6 p.m.
Jan. 29: vs. Hammonton, 6 p.m.
Feb. 1: at Oakcrest, 6 p.m.
Feb. 5: at Middle Township, 6 p.m.
Feb. 8: vs. Lower Cape May Regional, 6 p.m.
Feb. 11: vs. Vineland, 6 p.m.