There are few things certain going into the Moffat County High School girls basketball season.
Among those certainties are the abilities of the top returners.
Junior post-player, Brandie Telfer, can crash the boards and post up with anybody in the league, senior guard, Stephanie Brown, can slash and cut with her quick first step and senior Ashlee Hafey has outside touch as well as the ability to handle the point guard duties.
Considering that Telfer and Hafey are the only players to have much varsity experience, another certainty is that the team will be learning a lot as the season goes on.
"We have to rely a lot more on the whole team this year," junior Brandie Telfer said. "Last year we had an outstanding player who everybody tried to stop but couldn't. This year we don't have anybody at that level."
That player was Laurel Mortensen, the two-time Western Slope Conference player of the year. This year will be the first without the Mortensen name on the girls basketball roster in more than a decade. The only Mortensen factor remaining is coach Craig Mortensen.
"This is the most inexperienced team we've had here in a long time," Mortensen said. "We know who the key players are coming in, but they and the rest of the team will have to evolve and learn to win at the varsity level."
In the past two years, the senior class has had five of the top seven players on each team. With those teams the Bulldogs have gone undefeated in the regular season of league play the last two years and have lost only one conference game in the last three.
"Last year I felt like I was just sort of there to help the seniors any way I could," said Telfer, who earned second-team, all-conference honors as a sophomore for her post play. "This year, each of us has to do more than be there to help. We have to find our individual strengths for us to win."
Telfer, Hafey and Brown have figured out what each of them can bring to the team by playing over the summer and in the first weeks of practice.
"We're all about the same as far as being a scoring threat," Brown said. "We have learned about each other's strengths and weaknesses during the summer and that will be important."
Because of the turnover of players the girls said they could imagine the rest of the league is looking forward to facing an inexperienced Bulldog team.
"There is some pressure on us since we haven't lost a conference game for a long time," Hafey said. "But, we still expect to win the league."
To win the league, Mortensen said he and his coaching staff will need to do a lot of teaching this year.
"These girls need to learn how to be consistent every night at the varsity level," he said. "There will be a lot of teaching and explaining going on this year."
Mortensen's courtside classroom will also include more students than it has in the past.
"There could be varsity time for maybe 13 girls," he said. "It's actually exciting to have a fresh crop to put together his year.
"There will also be a lot more substituting than in the past and we'll probably do it sooner in the game," Mortensen said.
Other possible starters will be sophomores April Sanchez and Mari Katherine Raftopoulos as well as junior Erin Robinson.
In the coach's mind Rifle is the early favorite to win the league title but he didn't count his girls out.
"They've been practicing against the best team in the conference the past couple of years," he said. "So they know what that level is like. The challenge will be for them to find their strengths and identity throughout the season."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org