Fillmore Central remains a young team, but with plenty of experience as many of the members played varsity as freshmen in a program that has been rebuilding for several years.

The team has no seniors this year and lost just three seniors - two of them foreign exchange students - from last year's team, which finished 7-20 overall and 5-15 in the Three Rivers Conference.

"We have a core group of experienced juniors that are expected to be our leaders this year," said coach Sarah Tollefsrud. "With this core group of juniors, we are hoping to be more competitive."

Among those core juniors, guard Morgan Malley led the team in all scoring categories last year as she averaged 14.6 points per game. Forward Leah Scheevel was third in scoring at 5.0 points per game. She also led the team in rebounding with an average of 5.6 per game and steals with 56. Forward Kaitlyn Aug was fourth in scoring, averaging 4.3 points per game. She was also the fourth leading rebounder with a 3.5 average. Forward Sammi Bakke was right behind her in scoring with a 4.2 average. She was the second leading rebounder at 4.9 per game. Guard Carri Jones is the other returning junior.

Sophomore forward Gabrielle Schupe returns as do freshmen guard Kenzie Broadwater, who led the team in assists with 48 last season and was second in steals with 42, and center Kendyl Bennett.

Three newcomers are sophomore guard Megan Hendrickson and freshmen forward Paige Bennett and guard Tayah Barnes.

The team has a good balance between posts and guards with good size along with quickness and good outside shooting, particularly from Malley.

Tollefsrud, in her seventh year as head coach with the Falcons, feels the defense, something she emphasizes, will be better.

"Our girls are going to be scrappy," she said. "They enjoy playing defense."

However, she is concerned about the offense, particularly if opposing teams try to take Malley away. The Falcons need to find another option, she explained.

"I'm old school. Defense wins games," said the coach, who coaches a man-to-man defense. "However, we need to go to the hoop more this season. I want us to be more of a force on the offensive side. We need kids to score."

She's also concerned about the low numbers. With a small bench, illnesses and injuries could have an impact.

The team has also been focusing on leadership, since there are no seniors. Although it is coming, she is still "looking for a couple to be the voice of the team - and to lead by example."

She wants the team to keep being aggressive and she is expecting more of the younger players, who have been a part of the program for so long.

The season is starting sort of "crazy" because the district is putting a new gym floor in Harmony, meaning practices - and the first several games of the season - will be played in Preston. The girls have been practicing early in the morning and later in the evening than usual to make use of the crowded gym in Preston.

There was also the success of the volleyball team, which prevented several girls from getting a break between seasons. That success could be a plus, said Tollefsrud, as it was an "amazing experience" that seems to be carrying over.

"The girls are doing really well, even with the early morning practices. They have a lot of energy, a lot of spirit," she said. "It's a different feel this year. The energy in our gym is so much stronger this year."

She expects the Falcons to fit right in with the better teams in the Three Rivers Conference. Chatfield is going to be very strong, she said, and Plainview-Elgin-Millville is also very good. The other larger schools - Caledonia and Dover-Eyota - will also be up there.

"Our conference is very tough, but it will be pretty open on any given night," she said. "It will be exciting."

In the sub-section, she sees Spring Grove and Rushford-Peterson as the top two teams. It's been a long time since the Falcons made it through the early rounds, so one goal will be to make it to Rochester, site of the later sub-section rounds.

One of the new teams in the sub-section, Kingsland, which dropped down to Class A this year, is the opponent in the first game for the Falcons. The game is Tuesday, Dec. 3, at Kingsland.

The home opener on Friday, Dec. 6, is against conference favorite Chatfield.