Elco's girls basketball team is coming off of a solid season in 2015-2016, but it was a season that also carried a few what-ifs along with it.
The Raiders got into the District 3 Class 3A playoffs a year ago and upset No. 4 Susquehannock in the first round. Then, needing one win in three games to qualify for states, Elco lost its last three contests by a combined 21 points.
The good news for Ashli Shay's squad is that there are several players back who have accumulated big-game experience from that run. The bad news is that one of those players, 5-foot-11 senior guard/forward Alexis Thomas, is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Still, Elco has a solid core of returning starters from last year's 16-10 squad: 5-foot junior point guard Taylor Bossert, 5-5 sophomore guard Julia Nelson, and 6-0 sophomore forward Ryelle Shuey. Bossert made 52 3-point shots last season, second-best in Lebanon County.
“We're athletic, and we have good team speed,” said Shay, who is entering her seventh season coaching the Raiders. “We have a nice mix of perimeter and inside play. We have good length on some of our kids, so we can cause some problems for other teams defensively.”
A return to the postseason certainly seems to be within Elco's grasp, but Shay doesn't want the Raiders getting ahead of themselves.
“Our biggest thing, expectation- and goal-wise, is to get get better every game and every practice,” Shay said. “I don't like to look too far ahead.”
But for those who do look ahead, they will see that Elco has moved from Class 3A to Class 4A. The change came about because of the PIAA's reclassification in girls basketball, creating six classes to replace the old four-class system. There are 19 Class 4A teams in District 3.
Before that, though, Elco will be playing in a re-aligned Lancaster-Lebanon League. The Raiders are still in Section 3, but that is now an eight-team small-school section, not the six-team, middle-sized school section it had been in recent years.
“I think Section 3 is extremely strong this year,” Shay said. “With Lancaster Catholic and Northern Lebanon having pretty much everyone back, they'll be on everyone's radar as the teams to beat.”
Last season, Elco was third in the old Section 3. Northern Lebanon won the section title, while Cocalico was second. However, Cocalico is now in Section 2. Instead of facing Cocalico and Lampeter-Strasburg twice a season, now the Raiders will reunite with Lebanon County rivals Lebanon Catholic and Annville-Cleona in Section 3.
Players who will be trying to get the remaining starting positions and significant minutes off the bench include 5-8 junior guard/forward Emily Bidelspach, 5-10 junior forward Jalissa Nolt, 5-4 senior guard Adrianna Sonnen, 5-4 senior guard Angel Shouse, and 5-6 sophomore guard Jordan Rosengrant.
Coach: Ashli Shay
Last year: 16-10
Returning starters: Taylor Bossert (jr., PG, 5-0), Julia Nelson (so., G, 5-5), Ryelle Shuey (so., F, 6-0)
Other key players: Emily Bidelspach (jr., G/F, 5-8), Jalissa Nolt (jr., F, 5-10), Adrianna Sonnen (sr., G, 5-4), Angel Shouse (sr., G, 5-4), Jordan Rosengrant (so., G, 5-6)
Season opener: Friday (vs. Boiling Springs) and Saturday at Middletown Tip-Off Tournament.