Just about every girls basketball team in Carroll County this seasonwill start out with a "loss."
While it won't count toward the standings, it likely will have a noticeable effect down the road.
Almost every team in Carroll County has lost a key player to graduation or injury.
Some, like South Carroll, which graduated all five starters, lost more than others. But the overall list probably could fill an all-star roster.
Gone are Julie Cox and Kim Walsh of Liberty, Beckey Tregoning and Amber Smith of Francis Scott Key and LisaGarland of North Carroll, among others. Needless to say, there will be some new faces in Carroll County this season.
These include a new coach, Bernie Koontz of Westminster.
But what remains the same is parity in the county.
Several teams could contend for the county title, including North Carroll, Liberty and Westminster, with a fewsurprises sure to be thrown in along the way.
Here's a look at how area teams stack up:
FRANCIS SCOTT KEY EAGLES
After suffering through a 3-19 season, many coaches might look forward to a rebuilding year. Coach Brian Hollingsworth, however, may not be so fortunate.
With injuries to a pair of up-and-coming sophomores, Hollingsworth said his team's progress is a little behind schedule.
"We're a little behind the 8-ball," said Hollingsworth, who will be without forward Tregoning and guard Smith for the season. "Injuries have definitelyhurt us. But on the up side, every returner was at least a part-timestarter."
Tregoning suffered an injury to a ligament behind a knee in field hockey, while Smith was seriously injured in an auto accident.
The Eagles will count on a pair of juniors to lead the way. Off-guard Erin Murphey (5.5 points per game) and point-guard Shelley Smith (5.2) should be the go-to players in Key's up-tempo game.
While speed may be the team's best asset, it must work on improving its assists-to-turnovers ratio. Last season, for every five assists, Key turned the ball over 28 times.
If all the pieces were in place, the Lions would be in for a big year. Last season, Liberty went 15-9 and made it to the regional semifinals after winning justfive of 44 games the two years prior.
But with projected startersCox and Walsh out indefinitely with injuries, it may take some time for the Lions to get moving in the right direction.
"It's almost like we're starting from scratch," said Coach Tom Delise.
Six-foot center Kelly Foreman will be the team's catalyst. Last year as a junior, Foreman was second in the county in scoring (14.3) and fourth in rebounding (9.1).
Another key player will be junior point guard Amy Wolf, who must fill the shoes of graduated Cindy Leeds, who averaged six steals and 2.4 assists last season. Junior Dani Fostik (forward) and senior Brenda Timko (guard) also will play major roles this season.
If those players can pick up the scoring slack, Liberty should be in the thick of things come playoff time.
NORTH CARROLL PANTHERS
Gone via graduation is Garland, the Panthers' all-time leading scorer and rebounder. For a team that relied on a single player for so long, the loss could have been devastating.
But second-year coach Greg Knill is trying to turn it into a positive. He's banking that the loss of Garland could actually help rectify last year's inconsistency.
"Last year, we relied too much on Lisa," said Knill, whose 13-10 team lost to Liberty in the regionals. "If one of our players had an open shot, she'd try to force inside because Lisa was the 'go to' girl.
"None of these kids have ever really stepped up, because they didn't have to. They've all shown flashes, and I'm hoping that thisyear they all can contribute."
Returning this year are five seniors, including forwards Kim Piccone, Jennie Cooper and Jenni Heindel and guards Vickie Jackson and Mindy Bankert.
Knill said that all ofthese players must improve their games for the team to be successful.
SOUTH CARROLL CAVALIERS
Coach Ruth Lampert finds herself in the midst of an involuntary youth movement. Among her 11 players are two sophomores and four freshmen -- and not one senior.
"I've never had such a young team," said the 19-year coach, who lost all five starters from last year's 5-15 team.
Lampert said the Cavaliers have raw talent, but that the trick will be to mold it. She'll just start out with the basics and go from there.
South Carroll will try to usestingy defense to create opportunities on offense. Leading the way will be the only returning juniors, guards Kelly Adams and Melissa Moore and forward Beth Bonde.
One ace-in-the-hole could be freshman Amber Clutter. Chris Krevos, the new varsity coach at Thomas Johnson, coached Clutter on an Amateur Athletic Union team that traveled to several summer tournaments. He calls her a super-star freshman.
But that probably won't be enough to get the Cavs over the hump this year.
"Our goal is just to improve every game," said Lampert. "If we play tough defense, we'll have a chance in every game."
First-year coach Koontz has the players. It's the intangibles that he needs to help his team become a winner.
Last season, various internal problems led to the Owls' downfall and a 9-14 record. Koontz said the only way to put the team back on a winning track is to create a positive atmosphere.
"I'd like to see them have a more positive attitude toward each other and play more like a unit," said Koontz. "If they do that, there should be no reason that they won't make it to the regionals."
Koontz will rely on an inside-out offense toget there. That is, 5-10 center Kenya Warfield from the inside, and sharp-shooting guard Judie Marcus from the outside.
Guards Stephanie Morningstar and Meredith Fisher are expected to share time at point guard.
Koontz said if his team plays to its ability, it could finish in the top half of the league. It's all a matter of attitude.