At the same time, there's also plenty of uncertainty and some areas of concern for the Raiders to deal with as tip-off time for the 2011-12 campaign draws near.
Welcome to life with a young team: Fun and fretting all at the same time.
Maybe more fun than fretting for second-year head coach Ashli Shay if her underclassmen-dominated squad can shake off the inevitable growing pains that traditionally plague young, inexperienced teams and reach its full potential a little ahead of schedule.
"We don't have a lot of experience, but we certainly have a lot of potential," said Shay, who guided Elco to an 8-14 record in her first season at the helm. "The coaching staff has high expectations. They (the players) get along well and they're good athletes. It's just a matter of how quickly they learn and how they bounce back when they make mistakes. We only have one kid with significant varsity experience."
That would be 5-4 senior guard Carissa Mehaffey, a solid defender and ballhandler who's played more of a complimentary role the last few years, but whose experience and leadership will be critical to a Raider squad that will be leaning fairly heavily on a pair of sophomores to provide the bulk of the scoring punch.
That 10th-grade duo is made up of 5-7 guard Cheyenne Hassler and 5-10 forward Victoria Sweatlock, both of whom
Hassler, a perimeter threat, ended up averaging 6.7 points per contest in 19 games as a ninth-grader, while Sweatlock displayed some promising post skills in a reserve role.
Shay was impressed by what she saw from the two last season and believes more of the same and then some is on the way this time around.
"They've definitely improved from last year, and they did well last year," Shay said. "And they've gotten even better. I'm really excited about both of them. They give us a good inside/outside threat."
But Shay was also quick to point out everyone on her young squad will have to bring something to the table for Elco to reach its goal of being a player in the Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three race and qualifying for some kind of postseason play.
That means important roles for feisty 5-4 junior guard Halie Parker, who's expected to handle the majority of the point guard duties, and athletic 5-7 junior wing Kady Yoders, who'll put her speed to good use at both ends of the floor.
And helping out Sweatlock on the interior will be 5-10 junior Celeste Shimp, 5-7 sophomore Kathleen Gilbertson and 5-9 senior Jess Knoll. In addition, 5-3 senior guard Kathryn
It's a group that, while wildly inexperienced when it comes to varsity hoops, plays with significant competitive fire, intensity and camaraderie. That fact can be partially attributed to the success those players have had in other sports at Elco. For example, soccer in the case of Yoders, Mehaffey and Parker and softball for Hassler.
"Overall, the team chemistry is good, and that's a big part of being successful," Shay said. "They're a really fun group to be around, and they do work really hard. They want to do well, they're all competitive. They want to win, and they know what it's like to win."
The problem is, the Raiders are sometimes a bit too intense, according to Shay. Blessed with superb overall team speed, Elco sometimes isn't able to slow itself down on the court when the situation calls for a less frantic pace of play.
"Sometimes they get a little excited," Shay said, sounding pleased and concerned at the same time. "That's the youth in them. Sometimes we have to tell them to just slow down and take a deep breath. They just want to get the ball and go."
If the Raiders can rein themselves in when need be and add "poised" to their list of positive attributes, Shay believes a postseason berth is not out of the question.
Section Three figures to be Manheim Central's to lose, with Lampeter-Strasburg lurking near the top as well. But on a given night, Elco could certainly throw a scare into a contender or two. Or not.
"I don't see why we couldn't," Shay said of contending for a playoff berth. "But you just don't know with a young team. It can go one way or another. But I see us being very competitive."