Rebuilding years are usually unavoidable challenges poised to coaches that vary in severity.
The La Cañada High 2011 girls' basketball team is in code red, as it is forced to reconstruct a group from the ground up.
"Last year we graduated nine seniors, so we are in a complete rebuilding phase," La Cañada girl's basketball Coach Tamar Hill said. "I expect it to be a challenging but rewarding year."
Summer league for the Spartans gives them a chance to get a head start on the year. They were off to the races with tryouts two weeks ago, and will be competing in three tournaments — three games a week — and one or two practices a week for just over a month. Summer competition ends July 23.
"I'd like to achieve good team unity during summer ball so we are all comfortable playing together," said Kristene Hossepian, who is entering her senior year.
The Spartans finished the 2010 season with a 24-4 overall record. They were eliminated in the second round of the CIF Southern Section playoffs by Atascadero, losing by two points. The Spartans aren't sure what to expect in 2011, after all but one of their regular contributors from last year graduated.
Hossepian hopes to contradict the doubters, though.
"We did lose a lot of seniors, but I am sure if we keep working hard and keep our heads up we can prove some people wrong," Hossepian said.
The main thing Hill is trying to do this summer is teach the newcomers the varsity system.
"We are just getting used to the speed and pace of the varsity level," Hill said. "It is a lot faster. They need to learn where to be on the floor at all times and it takes a while."
So far, Hill likes the work ethic her young team has shown.
"They are willing to learn," Hill said. "They are like sponges right now, picking up things and just working hard at whatever we are asking them to, which is all you can ask for as a coach."
Hossepian is the Spartans' only returning starter from 2010, and while she started at shooting guard last year, Hill will have her fill the team's most important vacancy in 2011, point guard.
"I think part of the role of being a veteran on this team is going outside of your comfort box," said Hossepian, who hasn't played point since her freshman year on the junior varsity squad. "I'm definitely doing that with this position."
During the summer, Hossepian will be working on ball-handling and pull-up jump shots so she is better prepared to lead the team. She plans on the team making the transition easy for her.
While Hossepian knows the cards are stacked against the Spartans for next year, she wants to see them come out and prove the doubters wrong.
"I want to go out there and play our hardest regardless of what the specifics or rankings say," Hossepian said. "I want to go in there and work hard, knowing we left it all out on the floor."